Your two letters of Dec. 14 reached this place just after I had left it, for Bedford. This has occasioned the delay of the answer. I now inclose you the paper you requested on the boundaries of Louisiana. It is a bad Polygraph copy; however it is legible. There is nothing secret in the paper and therefore may be freely used as you please, except that I would not have it printed but with the advice of the Presidentwith his sanction, if it be thought material to satisfy the public opinion on the solidity of a right, the assertion of which may lead to war, it may be printed. But the paper I send you wants a very material appendix. This was a chronological table of all the facts relating to the discovery & history of Louisiana which I compiled from all the authors I possess or could obtain, who have written on Louisiana, with a reference to the authority for every fact. This is not now among my papers, and I have no conception what has become of it, unless it remains in the office of state. I sent both papers to that office, from which copies were taken and sent to our ministers at Paris & Madrid & perhaps given in by them to those governments. Copies were also retained for the use of the office, and perhaps only the original of the principal paper may have been returned to me. I write by this post to Mr. Graham to examine & if he has not the original of the chronological table, to lend me his copy, from which I will send you one. With respect to the boundaries they are as well ascertained as those of any unsettled country whatever, as well as the boundaries of several of these states, about which disputes still exist & as the boundaries of many of the unsettled Northern countries of Europe. I wish you would authorise the President to take possession of East Florida immediately. The seizing West Florida will be a signal to England to take Pensacola & St. Augustine; and be assured it will be done as soon as the order can return after they hear of our taking Baton Rouge, and we shall never get it from them but by a war, which may be prevented by anticipationthere never was a case where the adage was more true, in for a penny, in for a pound; and no more offence will be taken by France & Spain at our seizure of both than of one. The English will take East Florida, pretendedly for Spain. We should take it with a declaration 1. That it is a reprisal for indemnities Spain has acknoleged due to us. 2. To keep it from falling into hands in which it would essentially endanger our safety. 3. That in our hands it will still be held as a subject of negociation. The leading Republican members should come to an understanding, close the doors, and determine not to separate till the vote is carried and all the secrecy you can enjoin should be aimed at until the measure is executed. The militia of Georgia will do it in a fortnight.
I proposed to Francis, as you desired, his staying here. He asked me if I had written to you to ask permission for his stay. I told him I had & that you left it to himself. He said at once he would stay. I have put him into his Latin grammar, rather to learn him to exercise his memory in getting by heart, than from an expectation that he may otherwise profit by it as yet. I observe he gets very readily & perfectly. I inclose you a letter from him. Accept assurances of my constant affection.
Dear Sir,An absence from home of some length has prevented my sooner acknowledging the receipt of your letter, covering the printed pamphlet, which the same absence has as yet prevented me from taking up, but which I know I shall read with great pleasure. Your favor of December the 22d, is also received.
Mr. Wagners malignity, like that of the rest of his tribe of brother printers, who deal out calumnies for federal readers, gives me no pain. When a printer cooks up a falsehood, it is as easy to put it into the mouth of a Mr. Fox, as of a smaller man, and safer into that of a dead than a living one. Your sincere attachment to this country, as well as to your native one, was never doubted by me; and in that persuasion, I felt myself free to express to you my genuine sentiments with respect to England. No man was more sensible than myself of the just value of the friendship of that country. There are between us so many of those circumstances which naturally produce and cement kind dispositions, that if they could have forgiven our resistance to their usurpations, our connections might have been durable, and have insured duration to both our governments. I wished, therefore, a cordial friendship with them, and I spared no occasion of manifesting this in our correspondence and intercourse with them; not disguising, however, my desire of friendship with their enemy also. During the administration of Mr. Addington, I thought I discovered some friendly symptoms on the part of that government; at least, we received some marks of respect from the administration, and some of regret at the wrongs we were suffering from their country. So, also, during the short interval of Mr. Foxs power. But every other administration since our Revolution has been equally wanton in their injuries and insults, and have manifested equal hatred and aversion. Instead, too, of cultivating the government itself, whose principles are those of the great mass of the nation, they have adopted the miserable policy of teazing and embarrassing it, by allying themselves with a faction here, not a tenth of the people, noisy and unprincipled, and which never can come into power while republicanism is the spirit of the nation, and that must continue to be so, until such a condensation of population shall have taken place as will require centuries. Whereas, the good will of the government itself would give them, and immediately, every benefit which reason or justice would permit it to give. With respect to myself, I saw great reason to believe their ministers were weak enough to credit the newspaper trash about a supposed personal enmity in myself towards England. This wretched party imputation was beneath the notice of wise men. England never did me a personal injury, other than in open war; and for numerous individuals there, I have great esteem and friendship. And I must have had a mind far below the duties of my station, to have felt either national partialities or antipathies in conducting the affairs confided to me. My affections were first for my own country, and then, generally, for all mankind; and nothing but minds placing themselves above the passions, in the functionaries of this country, could have preserved us from the war to which their provocations have been constantly urging us. The war interests in England include a numerous and wealthy part of their population; and their influence is deemed worth courting by ministers wishing to keep their places. Continually endangered by a powerful opposition, they find it convenient to humor the popular passions at the expense of the public good. The shipping interest, commercial interest, and their janizaries of the navy, all fattening on war, will not be neglected by ministers of ordinary minds. Their tenure of office is so infirm that they dare not follow the dictates of wisdom, justice, and the well-calculated interests of their country. This vice in the English constitution, renders a dependence on that government very unsafe. The feelings of their King, too, fundamentally adverse to us, have added another motive for unfriendliness in his ministers. This obstacle to friendship, however, seems likely to be soon removed; and I verily believe the successor will come in with fairer and wiser dispositions towards us; perhaps on that event their conduct may be changed. But what England is to become on the crush of her internal structure, now seeming to be begun, I cannot foresee. Her monied interest, created by her paper system, and now constituting a baseless mass of wealth equal to that of the owners of the soil, must disappear with that system, and the medium for paying great taxes thus failing, her navy must be without support. That it shall be supported by permitting her to claim dominion of the ocean, and to levy tribute on every flag traversing that, as lately attempted and not yet relinquished, every nation must contest, even ad internecionem. And yet, that retiring from this enormity, she should continue able to take a fair share in the necessary equilibrium of power on that element, would be the desire of every nation.
I feel happy in withdrawing my mind from these anxieties, and resigning myself, for the remnant of life, to the care and guardianship of others. Good wishes are all an old man has to offer to his country or friends. Mine attend yourself, with sincere assurances of esteem and respect, which, however, I should be better pleased to tender you in person, should your rambles ever lead you into the vicinage of Monticello.
Dear Sir,I had been considering for some days, whether it was not time by a letter, to bring myself to your recollection, when I received your welcome favor of the 2d instant. I had before heard of the heart-rending calamity you mention, and had sincerely sympathized with your afflictions. But I had not made it the subject of a letter, because I knew that condolences were but renewals of grief. Yet I thought, and still think, this is one of the cases wherein we should not sorrow, even as others who have no hope. I have myself known so many cases of recovery from confirmed insanity, as to reckon it ever among the recoverable diseases. One of them was that of a near relative and namesake of mine, who, after many years of madness of the first degree, became entirely sane, and amused himself to a good old age in keeping school; was an excellent teacher and much valued citizen.
You ask if I have read Hartley ? I have not. My present course of life admits less reading than I wish. From breakfast, or noon at latest, to dinner, I am mostly on horseback, attending to my farm or other concerns, which I find healthful to my body, mind and affairs; and the few hours I can pass in my cabinet, are devoured by correspondences; not those of my intimate friends, with whom I delight to interchange sentiments, but with others, who, writing to me on concerns of their own in which I have had an agency, or from motives of mere respect and approbation, are entitled to be answered with respect and a return of good will. My hope is that this obstacle to the delights of retirement, will wear away with the oblivion which follows that, and that I may at length be indulged in those studious pursuits, from which nothing but revolutionary duties would ever have called me.
I shall receive your proposed publication and read it with the pleasure which everything gives me from your pen. Although much of a sceptic in the practice of medicine, I read with pleasure its ingenious theories.
I receive with sensibility your observations on the discontinuance of friendly correspondence between Mr. Adams and myself, and the concern you take in its restoration. This discontinuance has not proceeded from me, nor from the want of sincere desire and of effort on my part, to renew our intercourse. You know the perfect coincidence of principle and of action, in the early part of the Revolution, which produced a high degree of mutual respect and esteem between Mr. Adams and myself. Certainly no man was ever truer than he was, in that day, to those principles of rational republicanism which, after the necessity of throwing off our monarchy, dictated all our efforts in the establishment of a new government. And although he swerved, afterwards, towards the principles of the English constitution, our friendship did not abate on that account. While he was Vice President, and I Secretary of State, I received a letter from President Washington, then at Mount Vernon, desiring me to call together the Heads of departments, and to invite Mr. Adams to join us (which, by-the-bye, was the only instance of that being done) in order to determine on some measure which required despatch; and he desired me to act on it, as decided, without again recurring to him. I invited them to dine with me, and after dinner, sitting at our wine, having settled our question, other conversation came on, in which a collision of opinion arose between Mr. Adams and Colonel Hamilton, on the merits of the British constitution, Mr. Adams giving it as his opinion, that, if some of its defects and abuses were corrected, it would be the most perfect constitution of government ever devised by man. Hamilton, on the contrary, asserted, that with its existing vices, it was the most perfect model of government that could be formed; and that the correction of its vices would render it an impracticable government. And this you may be assured was the real line of difference between the political principles of these two gentlemen. Another incident took place on the same occasion, which will further delineate Mr. Hamiltons political principles. The room being hung around with a collection of the portraits of remarkable men, among them were those of Bacon, Newton and Locke, Hamilton asked me who they were. I told him they were my trinity of the three greatest men the world had ever produced, naming them. He paused for some time: the greatest man, said he, that ever lived, was Julius Cæsar. Mr. Adams was honest as a politician, as well as a man; Hamilton honest as a man, but, as a politician, believing in the necessity of either force or corruption to govern men.
You remember the machinery which the federalists played off, about that time, to beat down the friends to the real principles of our constitution, to silence by terror every expression in their favor, to bring us into war with France and alliance with England, and finally to homologize our constitution with that of England. Mr. Adams, you know, was overwhelmed with feverish addresses, dictated by the fear, and often by the pen, of the bloody buoy, and was seduced by them into some open indications of his new principles of government, and in fact, was so elated as to mix with his kindness a little superciliousness towards me. Even Mrs. Adams, with all her good sense and prudence, was sensibly flushed. And you recollect the short suspension of our intercourse, and the circumstance which gave rise to it, which you were so good as to bring to an early explanation, and have set to rights, to the cordial satisfaction of us all. The nation at length passed condemnation on the political principles of the federalists, by refusing to continue Mr. Adams in the Presidency. On the day on which we learned in Philadelphia the vote of the city of New York, which it was well known would decide the vote of the State, and that, again, the vote of the Union, I called on Mr. Adams on some official business. He was very sensibly affected, and accosted me with these words : Well, I understand that you are to beat me in this contest, and I will only say that I will be as faithful a subject as any you will have. Mr. Adams, said I, this is no personal contest between you and me. Two systems of principles on the subject of government divide our fellow citizens into two parties. With one of these you concur, and I with the other. As we have been longer on the public stage than most of those now living, our names happen to be more generally known. One of these parties, therefore, has put your name at its head, the other mine. Were we both to die to-day, to-morrow two other names would be in the place of ours, without any change in the motion of the machinery. Its motion is from its principle, not from you or myself. I believe you are right, said he, that we are but passive instruments, and should not suffer this matter to affect our personal dispositions. But he did not long retain this just view of the subject. I have always believed that the thousand calumnies which the federalists, in bitterness of heart, and mortification at their ejection, daily invented against me, were carried to him by their busy intriguers, and made some impression. When the election between Burr and myself was kept in suspense by the federalists, and they were mediating to place the President of the Senate at the head of the government, I called on Mr. Adams with a view to have this desperate measure prevented by his negative. He grew warm in an instant, and said with a vehemence he had not used towards me before, Sir, the event of the election is within your own power. You have only to say you will do justice to the public creditors, maintain the navy, and not disturb those holding offices, and the government will instantly be put into your hands. We know it is the wish of the people it should be so. Mr. Adams, said I, I know not what part of my conduct, in either public or private life, can have authorized a doubt of my fidelity to the public engagements. I say, however, I will not come into the government by capitulation. I will not enter on it, but in perfect freedom to follow the dictates of my own judgment. I had before given the same answer to the same intimation from Gouverneur Morris. Then, said he, things must take their course. I turned the conversation to something else, and soon took my leave. It was the first time in our lives we had ever parted with anything like dissatisfaction. And then followed those scenes of midnight appointment, which have been condemned by all men. The last day of his political power, the last hours, and even beyond the midnight, were employed in filling all offices, and especially permanent ones, with the bitterest federalists, and providing for me the alternative, either to execute the government by my enemies, whose study it would be to thwart and defeat all my measures, or to incur the odium of such numerous removals from office, as might bear me down. A little time and reflection effaced in my mind this temporary dissatisfaction with Mr. Adams, and restored me to that just estimate of his virtues and passions, which a long acquaintance had enabled me to fix. And my first wish became that of making his retirement easy by any means in my power; for it was understood he was not rich. I suggested to some republican members of the delegation from his State, the giving him, either directly or indirectly, an office, the most lucrative in that State, and then offered to be resigned, if they thought he would not deem it affrontive. They were of opinion he would take great offence at the offer; and moreover, that the body of republicans would consider such a step in the outset as arguing very ill of the course I meant to pursue. I dropped the idea, therefore, but did not cease to wish for some opportunity of renewing our friendly understanding.
Two or three years after, having had the misfortune to lose a daughter, between whom and Mrs. Adams there had been a considerable attachment, she made it the occasion of writing me a letter, in which, with the tenderest expressions of concern at this event, she carefully avoided a single one of friendship towards myself, and even concluded it with the wishes of her who once took pleasure in subscribing herself your friend, Abigail Adams. Unpromising as was the complexion of this letter, I determined to make an effort towards removing the cloud from between us. This brought on a correspondence which I now enclose for your perusal, after which be so good as to return it to me, as I have never communicated it to any mortal breathing, before. I send it to you, to convince you I have not been wanting either in the desire, or the endeavor to remove this misunderstanding. Indeed, I thought it highly disgraceful to us both, as indicating minds not sufficiently elevated to prevent a public competition from affecting our personal friendship. I soon found from the correspondence that conciliation was desperate, and yielding to an intimation in her last letter, I ceased from further explanation. I have the same good opinion of Mr. Adams which I ever had. I know him to be an honest man, an able one with his pen, and he was a powerful advocate on the floor of Congress. He has been alienated from me, by belief in the lying suggestions contrived for electioneering purposes, that I perhaps mixed in the activity and intrigues of the occasion. My most intimate friends can testify that I was perfectly passive. They would sometimes, indeed, tell me what was going on; but no man ever heard me take part in such conversations; and none ever misrepresented Mr. Adams in my presence, without my asserting his just character. With very confidential persons I have doubtless disapproved of the principles and practices of his administration. This was unavoidable. But never with those with whom it could do him any injury. Decency would have required this conduct from me, if disposition had not; and I am satisfied Mr. Adams conduct was equally honorable towards me. But I think it part of his character to suspect foul play in those of whom he is jealous, and not easily to relinquish his suspicions.
I have gone, my dear friend, into these details, that you might know everything which had passed between us, might be fully possessed of the state of facts and dispositions, and judge for yourself whether they admit a revival of that friendly intercourse for which you are so kindly solicitous. I shall certainly not be wanting in anything on my part which may second your efforts, which will be the easier with me, inasmuch as I do not entertain a sentiment of Mr. Adams, the expression of which could give him reasonable offence. And I submit the whole to yourself, with the assurance, that whatever be the issue, my friendship and respect for yourself will remain unaltered and unalterable.
I have to acknolege, my dear friend, the receipt of many of your letters within the last twelvemonth, and altho I have not answered them specifically to yourself, yet I have not been inattentive or inactive as to their contents. On leaving the government two years ago, I knew I could not serve you so effectually as by committing the whole care of your Orleans affairs to the President. The weight of his agency merged all other interferences & no one could have more zeal. The arrival of your letters therefore to me, was used as occasions for refreshing his memory on your situation, and always produced answers which shewed he had it ever in view, till at length he informed me he had been able to have the grants brought forward for his signature which they had received & were forwarded by a confidential person. Your letters after this I considered as effectively answered by the fact of the grants being expedited, & by that time in your hands. Your last of Sep. 20. recd Nov. 29. accordingly informed me of Mr. Parishs arrival on the continent with them. Notwithstanding the discouragements from Hope & Co. I have such reliance on the genius & resources of our friend Parker in these matters as not to despair of means being found of making this property a present relief as well as future provision. I should consider money lent on its hypothecation as on the solidest bottom of any loan existing. Of which of the dominant powers of Europe is the good faith as trustworthy ? In what spot of Europe is the money of a lender more secure than in this peaceable, industrious, & thriving country ? Had Mr. Goldsmidts Omnium been all bottomed on the grounds around New Orleans, he would not have needed the resource of the pistol. On the subject of your location adjacent to the city of New Orleans I am not able to say any thing now, in fact I have considered your affairs as so securely placed in the hands of M. Duplantier there, and of the President here, that my interferences were better suspended as it might have disturbed & could not aid their operations. I did not omit however on a late visit to Govr. Claiborne to me at this place to strengthen as far as in my power, his good dispositions to give any aid his situation would afford to Mr. Duplantier. I trust then that for my failure to write for some time past other motives will be perceived than inattention to your happiness and prosperity. Old men do not easily contract new friendships, but neither do they forget old ones. Yours & mine commenced in times too awful, has continued thro times too trying & changeful to be forgotten at the moment when our chief solace is in our recollections. You will be more sensible of this as you advance more towards my years. My situation too, so far in the interior country, prevents my knowing of the opportunities of writing. You remember your camps at the Raccoonford & Mechunck, & that I am still farther inland. For some time past there has been no opportunities but by public vessels; and the first we hear of them is generally that they sailed on such a day from such a port. One sailed lately from Hampton, which I learned only by the newspapers, after she was gone, and I am now writing without knowing when, or whence the letter can be forwarded. To these unfavorable circumstances for correspondence must be added the total change of the habits of my life. I am now on horseback among my farms from an early breakfast to a late dinner, with little regard to weather. I find it gives health to body, mind & affairs. I go to my writing table with great reluctance & only for those calls which cannot be put off to tomorrow. I am always happy to hear of the welfare of your family, & especially of your own. I hope you enjoy habitually good health & spirits. In the present state of the European world your comforts must all flow from what is immediately around you. There can be none in casting your eye over scenes of murder, rapine, devastation, pyracy, demoralization of national societies & degradation of the instruments of all this evil. If there be a god, & he is just his day will come. He will never abandon the whole race of man to be eaten up by the leviathans and mammoths of a day. I enjoy good health & am happy in contemplating the peace, prosperity, liberty & safety of my country, & especially the wide ocean, the barrier of all these. My daughter is in good health & continues to multiply the objects of our affection.
Mar. 27. Since the date of this letter, I am promoted to the honors of a great grandfather. God bless you & send you many & happy days. Yours ever and affectionately.
You have asked my opinion on the proposition of Mrs. Mifflin, to take measures for procuring, on the coast of Africa, an establishment to which the people of color of these States might, from time to time, be colonized, under the auspices of different governments. Having long ago made up my mind on this subject, I have no hesitation in saying that I have ever thought it the most desirable measure which could be adopted, for gradually drawing off this part of our population, most advantageously for themselves as well as for us. Going from a country possessing all the useful arts, they might be the means of transplanting them among the inhabitants of Africa, and would thus carry back to the country of their origin, the seeds of civilization which might render their sojournment and sufferings here a blessing in the end to that country.
I received, in the first year of my coming into the administration of the General Government, a letter from the Governor of Virginia, (Colonel Monroe,) consulting me, at the request of the Legislature of the State, on the means of procuring some such asylum, to which these people might be occasionally sent. I proposed to him the establishment of Sierra Leone, to which a private company in England had already colonized a number of negroes, and particularly the fugitives from these States during the Revolutionary War; and at the same time suggested, if this could not be obtained, some of the Portuguese possessions in South America, as next most desirable. The subsequent Legislature approving these ideas, I wrote, the ensuing year, 1802, to Mr. King, our Minister in London, to endeavor to negotiate with the Sierra Leone company a reception of such of these people as might be colonized thither. He opened a correspondence with Mr. Wedderburne and Mr. Thornton, secretaries of the company, on the subject, and in 1803 I received through Mr. King the result, which was that the colony was going on, but in a languishing condition; that the funds of the company were likely to fail, as they received no returns of profit to keep them up; that they were therefore in treaty with their government to take the establishment off their hands; but that in no event should they be willing to receive more of these people from the United States, as it was exactly that portion of their settlers which had gone from hence, which, by their idleness and turbulence, had kept the settlement in constant danger of dissolution, which could not have been prevented but for the aid of the Maroon negroes from the West Indies, who were more industrious and orderly than the others, and supported the authority of the government and its laws. I think I learned afterwards that the British Government had taken the colony into its own hands, and I believe it still exists. The effort which I made with Portugal, to obtain an establishment for them within their claims in South America, proved also abortive.
You inquire further, whether I would use my endeavors to procure for such an establishment security against violence from other powers, and particularly from France ? Certainly, I shall be willing to do anything I can to give it effect and safety. But I am but a private individual, and could only use endeavors with private individuals; whereas, the National Government can address themselves at once to those of Europe to obtain the desired security, and will unquestionably be ready to exert its influence with those nations for an object so benevolent in itself, and so important to a great portion of its constituents. Indeed, nothing is more to be wished than that the United States would themselves undertake to make such an establishment on the coast of Africa. Exclusive of motives of humanity, the commercial advantages to be derived from it might repay all its expenses. But for this, the national mind is not yet prepared. It may perhaps be doubted whether many of these people would voluntarily consent to such an exchange of situation, and very certain that few of those advanced to a certain age in habits of slavery, would be capable of self-government. This should not, however, discourage the experiment, nor the early trial of it; and the proposition should be made with all the prudent cautions and attentions requisite to reconcile it to the interests, the safety and the prejudices of all parties.
The length of time your favor of June the 12th, 1809, was on its way to me, and my absence from home the greater part of the autumn, delayed very much the pleasure which awaited me of reading the packet which accompanied it. I cannot express to you the satisfaction which I received from its perusal. I had, with the world, deemed Montesquieus work of much merit; but saw in it, with every thinking man, so much of paradox, of false principle and misapplied fact, as to render its value equivocal on the whole. Williams and others had nibbled only at its errors. A radical correction of them, therefore, was a great desideratum. This want is now supplied, and with a depth of thought, precision of idea, of language and of logic, which will force conviction into every mind. I declare to you, Sir, in the spirit of truth and sincerity, that I consider it the most precious gift the present age has received. But what would it have been, had the author, or would the author, take up the whole scheme of Montesquieus work, and following the correct analysis he has here developed, fill up all its parts according to his sound views of them ? Montesquieus celebrity would be but a small portion of that which would immortalize the author. And with whom ? With the rational and high-minded spirits of the present and all future ages. With those whose approbation is both incitement and reward to virtue and ambition. Is then the hope desperate ? To what object can the occupation of his future life be devoted so usefully to the world, so splendidly to himself ? But I must leave to others who have higher claims on his attention, to press these considerations.
My situation, far in the interior of the country, was not favorable to the object of getting this work translated and printed. Philadelphia is the least distant of the great towns of our States, where there exists any enterprise in this way; and it was not till the spring following the receipt of your letter, that I obtained an arrangement for its execution. The translation is just now completed. The sheets came to me by post, from time to time, for revisal; but not being accompanied by the original, I could not judge of verbal accuracies. I think, however, it is substantially correct, without being an adequate representation of the excellences of the original; as indeed no translation can be. I found it impossible to give it the appearance of an original composition in our language. I therefore think it best to divert inquiries after the author towards a quarter where he will not be found; and with this view, propose to prefix the prefatory epistle, now enclosed. As soon as a copy of the work can be had, I will send it to you by duplicate. The secret of the author will be faithfully preserved during his and my joint lives; and those into whose hands my papers will fall at my death, will be equally worthy of confidence. When the death of the author, or his living consent shall permit the world to know their benefactor, both his and my papers will furnish the evidence. In the meantime, the many important truths the work so solidly establishes, will, I hope, make it the political rudiment of the young, and manual of our older citizens.
One of its doctrines, indeed, the preference of a plural over a singular executive, will probably not be assented to here. When our present government was first established, we had many doubts on this question, and many leanings towards a supreme executive council. It happened that at that time the experiment of such an one was commenced in France, while the single executive was under trial here. We watched the motions and effects of these two rival plans, with an interest and anxiety proportioned to the importance of a choice between them. The experiment in France failed after a short course, and not from any circumstance peculiar to the times or nation, but from those internal jealousies and dissensions in the Directory, which will ever arise among men equal in power, without a principal to decide and control their differences. We had tried a similar experiment in 1784, by establishing a committee of the States, composed of a member from every State, then thirteen, to exercise the executive functions during the recess of Congress. They fell immediately into schisms and dissensions, which became at length so inveterate as to render all co-operation among them impracticable; they dissolved themselves, abandoning the helm of government, and it continued without a head, until Congress met the ensuing winter. This was then imputed to the temper of two or three individuals; but the wise ascribed it to the nature of man. The failure of the French Directory, and from the same cause, seems to have authorized a belief that the form of a plurality, however promising in theory, is impracticable with men constituted with the ordinary passions. While the tranquil and steady tenor of our single executive, during a course of twenty-two years of the most tempestuous times the history of the world has ever presented, gives a rational hope that this important problem is at length solved. Aided by the counsels of a cabinet of heads of departments, originally four, but now five, with whom the President consults, either singly or altogether, he has the benefit of their wisdom and information, brings their views to one centre, and produces an unity of action and direction in all the branches of the government. The excellence of this construction of the executive power has already manifested itself here under very opposite circumstances. During the administration of our first President, his cabinet of four members was equally divided by as marked an opposition of principle as monarchism and republicanism could bring into conflict. Had that cabinet been a directory, like positive and negative quantities in algebra, the opposing wills would have balanced each other and produced a state of absolute inaction. But the President heard with calmness the opinions and reasons of each, decided the course to be pursued, and kept the government steadily in it, unaffected by the agitation. The public knew well the dissensions of the cabinet, but never had an uneasy thought on their account, because they knew also they had provided a regulating power which would keep the machine in steady movement. I speak with an intimate knowledge of these scenes, quorum pars fui; as I may of others of a character entirely opposite. The third administration, which was of eight years, presented an example of harmony in a cabinet of six persons, to which perhaps history has furnished no parallel. There never arose, during the whole time, an instance of an unpleasant thought or word between the members. We sometimes met under differences of opinion, but scarcely ever failed, by conversing and reasoning, so to modify each others ideas, as to produce an unanimous result. Yet, able and amicable as these members were, I am not certain this would have been the case, had each possessed equal and independent powers. Ill-defined limits of their respective departments, jealousies, trifling at first, but nourished and strengthened by repetition of occasions, intrigues without doors of designing persons to build an importance to themselves on the divisions of others, might, from small beginnings, have produced persevering oppositions. But the power of decision in the President left no object for internal dissension, and external intrigue was stifled in embryo by the knowledge which incendiaries possessed, that no division they could foment would change the course of the executive power. I am not conscious that my participations in executive authority have produced any bias in favor of the single executive; because the parts I have acted have been in the subordinate, as well as superior stations, and because, if I know myself, what I have felt, and what I have wished, I know that I have never been so well pleased, as when I could shift power from my own, on the shoulders of others; nor have I ever been able to conceive how any rational being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others.
I am still, however, sensible of the solidity of your principle, that, to insure the safety of the public liberty, its depository should be subject to be changed with the greatest ease possible, and without suspending or disturbing for a moment the movements of the machine of government. You apprehend that a single executive, with eminence of talent, and destitution of principle, equal to the object, might, by usurpation, render his powers hereditary. Yet I think history furnishes as many examples of a single usurper arising out of a government by a plurality, as of temporary trusts of power in a single hand rendered permanent by usurpation. I do not believe, therefore, that this danger is lessened in the hands of a plural executive. Perhaps it is greatly increased, by the state of inefficiency to which they are liable from feuds and divisions among themselves. The conservative body you propose might be so constituted, as, while it would be an admirable sedative in a variety of smaller cases, might also be a valuable sentinel and check on the liberticide views of an ambitious individual. I am friendly to this idea. But the true barriers of our liberty in this country are our State governments; and the wisest conservative power ever contrived by man, is that of which our Revolution and present government found us possessed. Seventeen distinct States, amalgamated into one as to their foreign concerns, but single and independent as to their internal administration, regularly organized with legislature and governor resting on the choice of the people, and enlightened by a free press, can never be so fascinated by the arts of one man, as to submit voluntarily to his usurpation. Nor can they be constrained to it by any force he can possess. While that may paralyze the single State in which it happens to be encamped, sixteen others, spread over a country of two thousand miles diameter, rise up on every side, ready organized for deliberation by a constitutional legislature, and for action by their governor, constitutionally the commander of the militia of the State, that is to say, of every man in it able to bear arms; and that militia, too, regularly formed into regiments and battalions, into infantry, cavalry and artillery, trained under officers general and subordinate, legally appointed, always in readiness, and to whom they are already in habits of obedience. The republican government of France was lost without a struggle, because the party of un et indivisible had prevailed; no provincial organizations existed to which the people might rally under authority of the laws, the seats of the directory were virtually vacant, and a small force sufficed to turn the legislature out of their chamber, and to salute its leader chief of the nation. But with us, sixteen out of seventeen States rising in mass, under regular organization, and legal commanders, united in object and action by their Congress, or, if that be in duresse, by a special convention, present such obstacles to an usurper as forever to stifle ambition in the first conception of that object.
Dangers of another kind might more reasonably be apprehended from this perfect and distinct organization, civil and military, of the States; to wit, that certain States from local and occasional discontents, might attempt to secede from the Union. This is certainly possible; and would be befriended by this regular organization. But it is not probable that local discontents can spread to such an extent, as to be able to face the sound parts of so extensive an Union; and if ever they should reach the majority, they would then become the regular government, acquire the ascendency in Congress, and be able to redress their own grievances by laws peaceably and constitutionally passed. And even the States in which local discontents might engender a commencement of fermentation, would be paralyzed and self-checked by that very division into parties into which we have fallen, into which all States must fall wherein men are at liberty to think, speak, and act freely, according to the diversities of their individual conformations, and which are, perhaps, essential to preserve the purity of the government, by the censorship which these parties habitually exercise over each other.
You will read, I am sure, with indulgence, the explanations of the grounds on which I have ventured to form an opinion differing from yours. They prove my respect for your judgment, and diffidence in my own, which have forbidden me to retain, without examination, an opinion questioned by you. Permit me now to render my portion of the general debt of gratitude, by acknowledgements in advance for the singular benefaction which is the subject of this letter, to tender my wishes for the continuance of a life so usefully employed, and to add the assurances of my perfect esteem and respect.
Dear Sir,On my return from a journey of five weeks to Bedford I found here the two letters now enclosed, which though directed to me, belong, in their matter, to you. I never before heard of either writer, and therefore leave them to stand on their own grounds.
I congratulate you on the close of your campaign. Although it has not conquered your difficulties, it leaves you more at leisure to consider and provide against them. Our only chance as to England is the accession of the Prince of Wales to the throne. If only to the regency, himself and his ministers may be less bold and strong to make a thorough change of system. It will leave them, too, a pretext for doing less than right, if so disposed. He has much more understanding and good humor than principle or application. But it seems difficult to understand what Bonaparte means towards us. I have been in hopes the consultations with closed doors were for taking possession of East Florida. It would give no more offence anywhere than taking the western province, and I am much afraid the Percival ministry may have given orders for taking possession of it before they were put out of power.
We have had a wretched winter for the farmer. Great consumption of food by the cattle, and little weather for preparing the ensuing crop. During my stay in Bedford we had seven snows, that of February 22, which was of 15 inches about Richmond, was of 6 inches here, and only 3 1/2 in Bedford. Ever affectionately yours.
Dear Sir,Your favor of January 21st has been received, and with it the 2d volume of your Memoirs, with the appendices to the 1st, 2d and 4th volumes, for which accept my thanks. I shall read them with pleasure. The expression respecting myself, stated in your letter to have been imputed to you by your calumniators, had either never been heard by me, or, if heard, had been unheeded and forgotten. I have been too much the butt of such falsehoods myself to do others the injustice of permitting them to make the least impression on me. My consciousness that no man on earth has me under his thumb is evidence enough that you never used the expression. Daniel Clarkes book I have never seen, nor should I put Tacitus or Thucydides out of my hand to take that up. I am even leaving off the newspapers, desirous to disengage myself from the contentions of the world, and consign to entire tranquillity and to the kinder passions what remains to me of life. I look back with commiseration on those still buffeting the storm, and sincerely wish your argosy may ride out, unhurt, that in which it is engaged. My belief is that it will, and I found that belief on my own knowledge of Burrs transactions, on my view of your conduct in encountering them, and on the candor of your judges. I salute you with my best wishes and entire respect.
I thank you for your letter of February 16th, and the communication of that you had forwarded to the President. In his hands it may be turned to public account ; in mine it is only evidence of your zeal for the general good. My occupations are now in quite a different line, more suited to my age, my interests and inclinations. Having served my tour of duty, I leave public cares to younger and more vigorous minds, and repose my personal well-being under their guardianship, in perfect confidence of its safety. Our ship is sound, the crew alert at their posts, and our ablest steersman at its helm. That she will make a safe port I have no doubt ; and that she may, I offer to heaven my daily prayers, the proper function of age, and add to yourself the assurance of my respect.
Dear Sir,I learn with sincere concern, from yours of the 15th received by our last mail, the difficulties into which you are brought by the retirement of particular friends from the accommodations they had been in the habit of yielding you. That one of those you name should have separated from the censor of John Randolph, is consonant with the change of disposition which took place in him at Washington. That the other, far above that bias, should have done so, was not expected. I have ever looked to Mr. Lieper as one of the truest republicans of our country, whose mind, unaffected by personal incidents, pursues its course with a steadiness of which we have rare examples. Looking about for a motive, I have supposed it was to be found in the late arraignments of Mr. Gallatin in your papers. However he might differ from you on that subject, as I do myself, the indulgences in difference of opinion which we all owe to one another, and every one needs for himself, would, I thought, in a mind like his, have prevented such a manifestation of it. I believe Mr. Gallatin to be of a pure integrity, and as zealously devoted to the liberties and interests of our country as its most affectionate native citizen. Of this his courage in Congress in the days of terror, gave proofs which nothing can obliterate from the recollection of those who were witnesses of it. These are probably the opinions of Mr. Lieper, as I believe they are of every man intimately acquainted with Mr. Gallatin. An intercourse, almost daily, of eight years with him, has given me opportunities of knowing his character more thoroughly than perhaps any other man living; and I have ascribed the erroneous estimate you have formed of it to the want of that intimate knowledge of him which I possessed. Every one, certainly, must form his judgment on the evidence accessible to himself; and I have no more doubt of the integrity of your convictions than I have of my own. They are drawn from different materials and different sources of information, more or less perfect, according to our opportunities. The zeal, the disinterestedness, and the abilities with which you have supported the great principles of our revolution, the persecutions you have suffered, and the firmness and independence with which you have suffered them, constitute too strong a claim on the good wishes of every friend of elective government, to be effaced by a solitary case of difference in opinion. Thus I think, and thus I believed my much-esteemed friend Lieper would have thought; and I am the more concerned he does not, as it is so much more in his power to be useful to you than in mine. His residence, and his standing at the great seat of the monied institutions, command a credit with them, which no inhabitant of the country, and of agricultural pursuits only, can have. The two or three banks in our uncommercial State are too distant to have any relations with the farmers of Albemarle. We are persuaded you have not overrated the dispositions of this State to support yourself and your paper. They have felt its services too often to be indifferent in the hour of trial. They are well aware that the days of danger are not yet over. And I am sensible that if there were any means of bringing into concert the good will of the friends of the Aurora scattered over this State, they would not deceive your expectations. One month sooner might have found such an opportunity in the assemblage of our legislature in Richmond. But that is now dispersed not to meet again under a twelvemonth. We, here, are but one of a hundred counties, and on consultation with friends of the neighborhood, it is their opinion that if we can find an endorser resident in Richmond, (for that is indispensable,) ten or twelve persons of this county would readily engage, as you suggest, for their $100 each, and some of them for more. It is believed that the republicans in that city can and will do a great deal more; and perhaps their central position may enable them to communicate with other counties. We have written to a distinguished friend to the cause of liberty there to take the lead in the business, as far as concerns that place; and for our own, we are taking measures for obtaining the aid of the bank of the same place. In all this I am nearly a cypher. Forty years of almost constant absence from the State have made me a stranger in it, have left me a solitary tree, from around which the axe of time has felled all the companions of its youth and growth. I have, however, engaged some active and zealous friends to do what I could not. Their personal acquaintance and influence with those now in active life can give effect to their efforts. But our support can be but partial, and far short, both in time and measure, of your difficulties. They will be little more than evidences of our friendship. The truth is that farmers, as we all are, have no command of money. Our necessaries are all supplied, either from our farms, or a neighboring store. Our produce, at the end of the year, is delivered to the merchant, and thus the business of the year is done by barter, without the intervention of scarcely a dollar; and thus also we live with a plenty of everything except money. To raise that negociations and time are requisite. I sincerely wish that greater and prompter effects could have flowed from our good will. On my part, no endeavors or sacrifices shall be withheld. But we are bound down by the laws of our situation.
I do not know whether I am able at present to form a just idea of the situation of our country. If I am, it is such as, during the bellum omnium in omnia of Europe, will require the union of all its friends to resist its enemies within and without. If we schismatize on either men or measures, if we do not act in phalanx, as when we rescued it from the satellites of monarchism, I will not say our party, the term is false and degrading, but our nation will be undone. For the republicans are the nation. Their opponents are but a faction, weak in numbers, but powerful and profuse in the command of money, and backed by a nation, powerful also and profuse in the use of the same means; and the more profuse, in both cases, as the money they thus employ is not their own but their creditors, to be paid off by a bankruptcy, which whether it pays a dollar or a shilling in the pound is of little concern with them. The last hope of human liberty in this world rests on us. We ought, for so dear a state to sacrifice every attachment and every enmity. Leave the President free to choose his own coadjutors, to pursue his own measures, and support him and them, even if we think we are wiser than they, honester than they are, or possessing more enlarged information of the state of things. If we move in mass, be it ever so circuitously, we shall attain our object; but if we break into squads, every one pursuing the path he thinks most direct, we become an easy conquest to those who can now barely hold us in check. I repeat again, that we ought not to schismatize on either men or measures. Principles alone can justify that. If we find our government in all its branches rushing headlong, like our predecessors, into the arms of monarchy, if we find them violating our dearest rights, the trial by jury, the freedom of the press, the freedom of opinion, civil or religious, or opening on our peace of mind or personal safety the sluices of terrorism, if we see them raising standing armies, when the absence of all other danger points to these as the sole objects on which they are to be employed, then indeed let us withdraw and call the nation to its tents. But while our functionaries are wise, and honest, and vigilant, let us move compactly under their guidance, and we have nothing to fear. Things may here and there go a little wrong. It is not in their power to prevent it. But all will be right in the end, though not perhaps by the shortest means.
You know, my dear Sir, that this union of republicans has been the constant theme of my exhortations, that I have ever refused to know any subdivisions among them, to take part in any personal differences; and therefore you will not give to the present observations any other than general application. I may sometimes differ in opinion from some of my friends, from those whose views are as pure and sound as my own. I censure none, but do homage to every ones right of opinion. If I have indulged my pen, therefore, a little further than the occasion called for, you will ascribe it to a sermonizing habit, to the anxieties of age, perhaps to its garrulity, or to any other motive rather than the want of the esteem and confidence of which I pray you to accept sincere assurances.
P.S. Absorbed in a subject more nearly interesting, I had forgotten our book on the heresies of Montesquieu. I sincerely hope the removal of all embarrassment will enable you to go on with it, or so to dispose of it as that our country may have the benefit of the corrections it will administer to public opinion.
Dear Sir,Mr. Dabney Carr has written to you on the situation of the editor of the Aurora, and our desire to support him.
This paper has unquestionably rendered incalculable services to republicanism through all its struggles with the federalists, and has been the rallying point for the orthodoxy of the whole Union. It was our comfort in the gloomiest days, and is still performing the office of a watchful sentinel. We should be ungrateful to desert him, and unfaithful to our own interests to lose him. Still, I am sensible, and I hope others are so too, that one of his late attacks is as unfounded, as it is injurious to the republican cause. I mean that on Mr. Gallatin, than whom there is no truer man, and who, after the President, is the ark of our safety.
I have thought it material that the editor should understand that that attack has no part in the motives for what we may do for him : that we do not, thereby, make ourselves partisans against Mr. Gallatin; but while we differ from him on that subject, we retain a just sense of all his other services, and will not be wanting as far as we can aid him.
For this purpose I have written him the enclosed answer to his letter, which I send for your perusal, on supposition that you concur in the sentiment, and would be unwilling he should misconstrue the service you may be able to render him, as an encouragement to proceed in the mischievous undertaking of writing down Mr. Gallatin. Be so good as to return the paper when read; and to be assured of my sincere and constant attachment and respect.
My Dear General and Friend,My last letter to you was of the 26th of February of the last year. Knowing of no particular conveyance, I confided it to the Department of State, to be put under the cover of their public despatches tn General Armstrong or Mr. Warden. Not having been able to learn whether it ever got to hand, I now enclose a duplicate.
Knowing your affections to this country, and the interest you take in whatever concerns it, I therein gave you a tableau of its state when I retired from the administration. The difficulties and embarrassments still continued in our way by the two great belligerent powers, you are acquainted with. In other times, when there was some profession of regard for right, some respect to reason, when a gross violation of these marked a deliberate design of pointed injury, these would have been causes of war. But when we see two antagonists contending ad internecionem, so eager for mutual destruction as to disregard all means, to deal their blows in every direction regardless on whom they may fall, prudent bystanders, whom some of them may wound, instead of thinking it cause to join in the maniac contest, get out of the way as well as they can, and leave the cannibals to mutual ravin. It would have been perfect Quixotism in us to have encountered these Bedlamites, to have undertaken the redress of all wrongs against a world avowedly rejecting all regard to right. We have, therefore, remained in peace, suffering frequent injuries, but, on the whole, multiplying, improving, prospering beyond all example. It is evident to all, that in spite of great losses much greater gains have ensued. When these gladiators shall have worried each other into ruin or reason, instead of lying among the dead on the bloody arena, we shall have acquired a growth and strength which will place us hors dinsulte. Peace then has been our principle, peace is our interest, and peace has saved to the world this only plant of free and rational government now existing in it. If it can still be preserved, we shall soon see the final extinction of our national debt, and liberation of our revenues for the defence and improvement of our country. These revenues will be levied entirely on the rich, the business of household manufacture being now so established that the farmer and laborer clothe themselves entirely. The rich alone use imported articles, and on these alone the whole taxes of the General Government are levied. The poor man who uses nothing but what is made in his own farm or family, or within his own country, pays not a farthing of tax to the general government, but on his salt; and should we go into that manufacture also, as is probable, he will pay nothing. Our revenues liberated by the discharge of the public debt, and its surplus applied to canals, roads, schools, etc., the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone, without his being called on to spend a cent from his earnings. However, therefore, we may have been reproached for pursuing our Quaker system, time will affix the stamp of wisdom on it, and the happiness and prosperity of our citizens will attest its merit. And this, I believe, is the only legitimate object of government, and the first duty of governors, and not the slaughter of men and devastation of the countries placed under their care, in pursuit of a fantastic honor, unallied to virtue or happiness; or in gratification of the angry passions, or the pride of administrators, excited by personal incidents, in which their citizens have no concern. Some merit will be ascribed to the converting such times of destruction into times of growth and strength for us. And behold ! another example of man rising in his might and bursting the chains of his oppressor, and in the same hemisphere. Spanish America is all in revolt. The insurgents are triumphant in many of the States, and will be so in all. But there the danger is that the cruel arts of their oppressors have enchained their minds, have kept them in the ignorance of children, and as incapable of self-government as children. If the obstacles of bigotry and priest-craft can be surmounted, we may hope that common sense will suffice to do everything else. God send them a safe deliverance. As to the private matter explained in my letter of February 26, the time I shall have occasion for your indulgence will not be longer than there stated, and may be shortened if either your convenience or will should require it. God bless you, and give you many years of health and happiness, and that you may live to see more of the liberty you love than present appearances promise.
P.S. Mr. Barnes is now looking out for bills for your usual annual remittance.
Dear Sir,I feel much concern that suggestions stated in your letter of the 5th instant, should at this distance of time be the subject of uneasiness to you, and I regret it the more as they make appeals to memory, a faculty never strong in me, and now too sensibly impaired to be relied on. It retains no trace of the particular conversations alluded to, nor enables me to say that they are or are not correct. The only safe appeal for me is to the general impressions received at the time, and still retained with sufficient distinctness. These were that you discharged the duties of your appointment with ability, diligence and zeal, but that in the article of expense you were not sufficiently guarded. You must remember my frequent cautions to you on this head, the measures I took, by calling for frequent accounts of expenditures and contracts, to mark to you, as well as to myself, when they were getting beyond the limits of the appropriations, and the afflicting embarrassments on a particular occasion where these limits had been unguardedly and greatly transcended. These sentiments I communicated to you freely at the time, as it was my duty to do. Another principle of conduct with me was to admit no innovations on the established plans, but on the strongest grounds. When, therefore, I thought first of placing the floor of the Representative chamber on the level of the basement of the building, and of throwing into its height the cavity of the dome, in the manner of the Halle aux Bleds at Paris, I deemed it due to Dr. Thornton author of the plan of the Capitol, to consult him on the change. He not only consented, but appeared heartily to approve of the alteration. For the same reason, as well as on motives of economy, I was anxious, in converting the Senate chamber into a Judiciary room, to preserve its original form, and to leave the same arches and columns standing. On your representation, however, that the columns were decayed and incompetent to support the incumbent weight, I acquiesced in the change you proposed, only striking out the addition which would have made part of the middle building, and would involve a radical change in that which had not been sanctioned. I have no reason to doubt but that in the execution of the Senate and Court rooms, you have adhered to the plan communicated to me and approved; but never having seen them since their completion, I am not able to say so expressly. On the whole, I do not believe any one has ever done more justice to your professional abilities than myself. Besides constant commendations of your taste in architecture, and science in execution, I declared on many and all occasions that I considered you as the only person in the United States who could have executed the Representative chamber, or who could execute the middle buildings on any of the plans proposed. There have been too many witnesses of these declarations to leave any doubt as to my opinion on this subject. Of the value I set on your society, our intercourse before as well as during my office, can have left no doubt with you ; and I should be happy in giving further proofs to you personally at Monticello, of which you have sometimes flattered me with the hope of an opportunity.
I have thus, Sir, stated general truths without going into the detail of particular facts or expressions, to which my memory does not enable me to say yea or nay. But a consciousness of my consistency in private as well as public, supports me in affirming that nothing ever passed from me contradictory to these general truths, and that I have been misapprehended if it has ever been so supposed. I return you the plans received with your letter, and pray you to accept assurances of my continued esteem and respect.
My Dear Baron,The interruption of our intercourse with France for some time past, has prevented my writing to you. A conveyance now occurs, by Mr. Barlow or Mr. Warden, both of them going in a public capacity. It is the first safe opportunity offered of acknowledging your favor of September 23d, and the receipt at different times of the IIId part of your valuable work, 2d, 3d, 4th and 5th livraisons, and the IVth part, 2d, 3d, and 4th livraisons, with the Tableaux de la nature, and an interesting map of New Spain. For these magnificent and much esteemed favors, accept my sincere thanks. They give us a knowledge of that country more accurate than I believe we possess of Europe, the seat of the science of a thousand years. It comes out, too, at a moment when those countries are beginning to be interesting to the whole world. They are now becoming the scenes of political revolution, to take their stations as integral members of the great family of nations. All are now in insurrection. In several, the Independents are already triumphant, and they will undoubtedly be so in all. What kind of government will they establish ? How much liberty can they bear without intoxication ? Are their chiefs sufficiently enlightened to form a well-guarded government, and their people to watch their chiefs ? Have they mind enough to place their domesticated Indians on a footing with the whites ? All these questions you can answer better than any other. I imagine they will copy our outlines of confederation and elective government, abolish distinction of ranks, bow the neck to their priests, and persevere in intolerantism. Their greatest difficulty will be in the construction of their executive. I suspect that, regardless of the experiment of France, and of that of the United States in 1784, they will begin with a directory, and when the unavoidable schisms in that kind of executive shall drive them to something else, their great question will come on whether to substitute an executive elective for years, for life, or an hereditary one. But unless instruction can be spread among them more rapidly than experience promises, despotism may come upon them before they are qualified to save the ground they will have gained. Could Napoleon obtain, at the close of the present war, the independence of all the West India islands, and their establishment in a separate confederacy, our quarter of the globe would exhibit an enrapturing prospect into futurity. You will live to see much of this. I shall follow, however, cheer fully, my fellow laborers, contented with having borne a part in beginning this beatific reformation.
I fear, from some expressions in your letter, that your personal interests have not been duly protected, while vou were devoting your time, talents and labor for the information of mankind. I should sincerely regret it for the honor of the governing powers, as well as from affectionate attachment to yourself and the sincerest wishes for your felicity, fortunes and fame.
In sending you a copy of my Notes on Virginia, I do but obey the desire you have expressed. They must appear chetif enough to the author of the great work on South America. But from the widow her mite was welcome, and you will add to this indulgence the acceptance of my sincere assurances of constant friendship and respect.
I received, through Mr. Warden, the copy of your valuable work on the French Revolution, for which I pray you to accept my thanks. That its sale should have been suppressed is no matter of wonder with me. The friend of liberty is too, feelingly manifested, not to give umbrage to its enemies. We read in it, and weep over, the fatal errors which have lost to nations the present hope of liberty, and to reason for fairest prospect of its final triumph over all imposture, civil and religious. The testimony of one who himself was an actor in the scenes he notes, and who knew the true mean between rational liberty and the frenzies of demagogy, are a tribute to truth of inestimable value. The perusal of this work has given me new views of the causes of failure in a revolution of which I was a witness in its early part, and then augured well of it. I had no means, afterwards, of observing its progress but the public papers, and their information came through channels too hostile to claim confidence. An acquaintance with many of the principal characters, and with their fate, furnished me grounds for conjectures, some of which you have confirmed, and some corrected. Shall we ever see as free and faithful a tableau of subsequent acts of this deplorable tragedy ? Is reason to be forever amused with the hochets of physical sciences, in which she is indulged merely to divert her from solid speculations on the rights of man, and wrongs of his oppressors ? It is impossible. The day of deliverance will come, although I shall not live to see it. The art of printing secures us against the retrogradation of reason and information, the examples of its safe and wholesome guidance in government, which will be exhibited through the wide-spread regions of the American continent, will obliterate, in time, the impressions left by the abortive experiment of France. With my prayers for the hastening of that auspicious day, and for the due effect of the lessons of your work to those who ought to profit by them, accept the assurances of my great esteem and respect.
Dear Sir,I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letters of January 20 and September 14, 1810, and, with the latter, your observations on the subject of taxes. They bear the stamps of logic and eloquence which mark everything coming from you, and place the doctrines of the Economists in their strongest points of view. My present retirement and unmeddling disposition make of this une question viseuse pour moi. But after reading the observations with great pleasure, I forwarded them to the President and Mr. Gallatin, in whose hands they may be useful. Yet I do not believe the change of our system of taxation will be forced on us so early as you expect, if war be avoided. It is true we are going greatly into manufactures; but the mass of them are household manufactures of the coarse articles worn by the laborers and farmers of the family. These I verily believe we shall succeed in making to the whole extent of our necessities. But the attempts at fine goods will probably be abortive. They are undertaken by company establishments, and chiefly in the towns; will have little success and short continuance in a country where the charms of agriculture attract every being who can engage in it. Our revenue will be less than it would be were we to continue to import instead of manufacturing our coarse goods. But the increase of population and production will keep pace with that of manufactures, and maintain the quantum of exports at the present level at least; and the imports need be equivalent to them, and consequently the revenue on them be undiminished. I keep up my hopes that if war be avoided, Mr. Madison will be able to complete the payment of the national debt within his term, after which one-third of the present revenue would support the government. Your information that a commencement of excise had been again made, is entirely unfounded. I hope the death blow to that most vexatious and unproductive of all taxes was given at the commencement of my administration, and believe its revival would give the death blow to any administration whatever. In most of the middle and southern States some land tax is now paid into the State treasury, and for this purpose the lands have been classed and valued, and the tax assessed according to that valuation. In these an excise is most odious. In the eastern States land taxes are odious, excises less unpopular. We are all the more reconciled to the tax on importations, because it falls exclusively on the rich, and with the equal partition of intestates estates, constitute the best agrarian law. In fact, the poor man in this country who uses nothing but what is made within his own farm or family, or within the United States, pays not a farthing of tax to the general government, but on his salt; and should we go into that manufacture as we ought to do, we will pay not one cent. Our revenues once liberated by the discharge of the public debt, and its surplus applied to canals, roads, schools, &c., and the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone, without his being called on to spare a cent from his earnings. The path we are now pursuing leads directly to this end, which we cannot fail to attain unless our administration should fall into unwise hands.
Another great field of political experiment is opening in our neighborhood, in Spanish America. I fear the degrading ignorance into which their priests and kings have sunk them, has disqualified them from the maintenance or even knowledge of their rights, and that much blood may be shed for little improvement in their condition. Should their new rulers honestly lay their shoulders to remove the great obstacles of ignorance, and press the remedies of education and information, they will still be in jeopardy until another generation comes into place, and what may happen in the interval cannot be predicted, nor shall you or I live to see it. In these cases I console myself with the reflection that those who will come after us will be as wise as we are, and as able to take care of themselves as we have been. I hope you continue to preserve your health, and that you may long continue to do so in happiness, is the prayer of yours affectionately.
Dear Sir,I felicitate you sincerely on your destination to Paris, because I believe it will contribute both to your happiness and the public good. Yet it is not unmixed with regret. What is to become of our past revolutionary history ? Of the antidotes of truth to the misrepresentations of Marshall ? This example proves the wisdom of the maxim, never to put off to to-morrow what can be done to-day. But, putting aside vain regrets, I shall be happy to hear from you in your new situation. I cannot offer you in exchange the minutiæ of the Cabinet, the workings in Congress, or under-workings of those around them. General views are all which we at a distance can have, but general views are sometimes better taken at a distance than nearer. The working of the whole machine is sometimes better seen elsewhere than at its centre. In return you can give me the true state of things in Europe, what is its real public mind at present, its disposition towards the existing authority, its secret purposes and future prospects, seasoned with the literary news. I do not propose this as an equal barter, because it is really asking you to give a dollar for a shilling. I must leave the difference to be made up from other motives. I have been long waiting for a safe opportunity to write to some friends and correspondents in France. I troubled Mr. Warden with some letters, and he kindly offered to take all I could get ready before his departure. But his departure seems not yet definitely settled, and should he not go with you, what is in your hands will be less liable to violation than in his. I therefore take the liberty of asking your care of the letters now enclosed, and their delivery through confidential hands. Most of them are of a complexion not proper for the eye of the police, and might do injury to those to whom they are addressed. Wishing to yourself and Mrs. Barlow a happy voyage, and that the execution of the duties of your mission may be attended with all agreeable circumstances, I salute you with assurance of my perfect esteem and respect.
Dear Sir,A book confided to me by a friend for translation and publication has for a twelvemonth past kept me in correspondence with Colonel Duane. We undertook to have it translated and published. The last sheets had been revised, and in a late letter to him, I pressed the printing. I soon afterwards received one from him informing me that it would be much retarded by embarrassments recently brought on him by his friends withdrawing their aid who had been in the habit of lending their names for his accommodation in the banks. He painted his situation as truly distressing; and intimated the way in which relief would be acceptable. The course I pursued on the occasion will be explained to you in a letter which I have written to the President, and asked the favor of him to communicate to you.
A difference of quite another character gives me more uneasiness. No one feels more painfully than I do, the separation of friends, and especially when their sensibilities are to be daily harrowed up by cannibal newspapers. In these cases, however, I claim from all parties the privilege of neutrality, and to be permitted to esteem all as I ever did. The harmony which made me happy while at Washington, is as dear to me now as then, and I should be equally afflicted, were it, by any circumstance, to be impaired as to myself. I have so much confidence in the candor and good sense of both parties, as to trust that the misunderstanding will lead to no sinister effects, and my constant prayer will be for blessings on you all.
Dear Sir,Yours of the 19th is received. I have carefully examined my letter files from July 1808 to this day, & find among them no such anonymous letter as you mention. Indeed the strong impression on my memory is that I never received an Anonymous letter from England, or from any other country than our own.
Certain newspapers are taking a turn which gives me uneasiness. Before I was aware of it, I was led to an interference which tho from just motives, I should not, at a later moment, have shaped exactly as I did. I cannot therefore repress the desire to communicate it fully to you. On the 24th of March I received a friendly letter from Duane, informing me of the distress into which he had been thrown by his former friends, Lieper & Clay, withdrawing their endorsements for him at the banks; the latter expressly for his attacks on John Randolph, the former without assigning any particular cause: & he concluded by asking whether, in Virginia, where he had been flattered by the support of his paper, 80. gentlemen could not be found, who would advance him their hundred Dollars apiece, to be repaid at short periods. I immediately engaged Mr. Peter Carr here, & Mr. Wirt in Richmond to set the experiment afoot, & one of these engaged a friend in Baltimore to do the same. But I mentioned to these gentlemen that to apprise Duane of the grounds on which we interested ourselves for him, to wit, his past services to the cause of republicanism, & that he might not mistake it as an approbation of his late attacks on Mr. Gallatin, of which we unequivocally disapproved, I would write him a letter. I accordingly wrote him the one now inclosed, which I previously communicated to Messrs. Carr & Wirt. It did not leave this till the 1st of April. The thing was going on hopefully enough, when his papers of the 4th & 8th arrived here, the latter written probably after he had received my letter. The effect at Baltimore I have not learned, but every person who had offered, here or at Richmond to join in aiding him, immediately withdrew, considering him as unequivocally joining the banners of the opposition, federal or factious. I have to give an account of this to Duane, but am waiting, in expectation of an answer to mine of March 26. In that I shall make one effort more to reclaim him from the dominion of his passions, but I expect it will be the last, and as unavailing as the former.
I could not be satisfied until I informed you of this transaction and must even request you to communicate it to Mr. Gallatin: for altho the just tribute rendered him in the letter was certainly never meant to meet his eyes yet it is there, among other things, it must go to him. Ritchie has been under hesitation. His paper of the 16th decides his course as to yourself, and I propose to set him to rights, as to Mr. Gallatin, through a letter to Wirt, in which I shall expose the falsehood or futility of the facts they have harped upon. All this however is confidential to yourself & Mr. Gallatin; because, while I wish to do justice to truth, I wish also to avoid newspaper observation.
With respect to the opposition threatened, altho it may give some pain, no injury of consequence is to be apprehended. Duane flying off from the government, may, for a little while, throw confusion into our ranks as John Randolph did. But, after a moment of time to reflect & rally, & to see where he is, we shall stand our ground with firmness. A few malcontents will follow him, as they did John Randolph, & perhaps he may carry off some well meaning Anti-Snyderites of Pennsylvania. The federalists will sing Hosannas, & the world will thus know of a truth what they are. This new minority will perhaps bring forward their new favorite, who seems already to have betrayed symptoms of consent. They will blast him in the bud, which will be no misfortune. They will sound the tocsin against the antient dominion, and anti-dominionism may become their rallying point. And it is better that all this should happen two than six years hence.
Disregarding all this, I am sure you will pursue steadily your own wise plans, that peace, with the great belligerents at least, will be preserved until it becomes more losing than war, & that the total extinction of the national debt, & liberation of our revenues, for defence in war and improvement in peace, will seal your retirement with the blessings of your country. For all this, & for your health & happiness I pray to God fervently.
P.S. Be so good as to return the inclosed as I have no other copy.
Dear Sir,I have learnt, with sincere concern, the circumstances which have taken place at Washington. Some intimations had been quoted from federal papers, which I had supposed false, as usual. Their first confirmation to me was from the National Intelligencer. Still my hopes and confidence were that your retirement was purely a matter of choice on your part. A letter I have received from Mr. Hollins makes me suppose there was a more serious misunderstanding than I had apprehended. The newspapers indeed had said so, but I yield little faith to them. No one feels more painfully than I do the separation of friends, and especially when their sensibilities are to be daily harrowed up by cannibal newspapers. Suffering myself under whatever inflicts sufferance on them, I condole with them mutually, and ask the mutual permission to esteem all, as I ever did; not to know their differences nor ask the causes of them. The harmony which made me happy at Washington, is as dear to me now as it was then, and I should be equally afflicted were it by any circumstance to be impaired as to myself. I have so much confidence in the candor and liberality of both parties, as to trust that the misunderstanding will not be permitted to lead to any sinister effects, and my constant prayer will be for blessings on you all.
Dear Sir,When I wrote you my letter of March 28, I had great confidence that as much at least could have been done for you as I therein supposed. The friend to whom I confided the business here, and who was and is zealous, had found such readiness in those to whom he spoke, as left no other difficulty than to find the bank responsible. But the Auroras which came on while this was in transaction, changed the prospect altogether, and produced a general revulsion of sentiment. The Presidents popularity is high through this State, and nowhere higher than here. They considered these papers as a denunciation of war against him, and instantly withdrew their offers. I cannot give you a better account of the effect of the same papers in Richmond than by quoting the letter of a friend who there undertook the same office, and with great cordiality. In a letter to me of April 17, he says : Yours of the 15th, in reply to mine of the 10th inst., has been brought to me from the office this instant. On showing it to the effect of it was to dispose him to lend $500, and I wrote my letter of the 10th to you in a persuasion produced by that incident, as well as by its effect on my own feelings, that something important might be done for D. in spite of the adverse spirit, or at least distrust, which the equivocal character of his paper has lately excited, equivocal in relation to Mr. Madison. But D.s three or four last papers contain such paragraphs in relation to Mr. Madison, that even your letter cannot now serve him. The paper is now regarded as an opposition one, and the republicans here have no sympathy with any one who carries opposition colors. Every gentleman who mentions this subject in my hearing, speaks with the warmest resentment against D. Believe me, Sir, it is impossible to do anything for him here now; and any further attempts would only disable me from rendering any service to the cause hereafter. I am persuaded that you will see this subject in its true light, and be assured that it is the impracticability of serving him, produced by himself, as well as the violation which I feel it would be of my sentiments for Mr. Madison, that prevents me from proceeding. The firm, yet modest character of the writer of this letter gives great weight to what he says, and I have thought it best to state it in his own terms, because it will be better evidence to you than any general description I could give of the impression made by your late papers. Indeed I could give none, for going little from home, I cannot personally estimate the public sentiment. The few I see are very unanimous in support of their Executive and legislative functionaries. I have thought it well, too, that you should know exactly the feelings here, because if you get similar information from other respectable portions of the union, it will naturally beget some suspicion in your own mind that finding such a mass of opinion variant from your own, you may be under erroneous impressions, meriting re-examination and consideration. I think an Editor should be independent, that is, of personal influence, and not be moved from his opinions on the mere authority of any individual. But, with respect to the general opinion of the political section with which he habitually accords, his duty seems very like that of a member of Congress. Some of these indeed think that independence requires them to follow always their own opinion, without respect for that of others. This has never been my opinion, nor my practice, when I have been of that or any other body. Differing, on a particular question, from those whom I knew to be of the same political principles with myself, and with whom I generally thought and acted, a consciousness of the fallibility of the human mind, and of my own in particular, with a respect for the accumulated judgment of my friends, has induced me to suspect erroneous impressions in myself, to suppose my own opinion wrong, and to act with them on theirs. The want of this spirit of compromise, or of self-distrust, proudly, but falsely called independence, is what gives the federalists victories which they could never obtain, if these brethren could learn to respect the opinions of their friends more than of their enemies, and prevents many able and honest men from doing all the good they otherwise might do. I state these considerations because they have often quieted my own conscience in voting and acting on the judgment of others against my own; and because they may suggest doubts to yourself in the present case. Our Executive and legislative authorities are the choice of the nation, and possess the nations confidence. They are chosen because they possess it, and the recent elections prove it has not been abated by the attacks which have for some time been kept up against them. If the measures which have been pursued are approved by the majority, it is the duty of the minority to acquiesce and conform. It is true indeed that dissentients have a right to go over to the minority, and to act with them. But I do not believe your mind has contemplated that course, that it has deliberately viewed the strange company into which it may be led, step by step, unintended and unperceived by itself. The example of John Randolph is a caution to all honest and prudent men, to sacrifice a little of self-confidence, and to go with their friends, although they may sometimes think they are going wrong. After so long a course of steady adherence to the general sentiments of the republicans, it would afflict me sincerely to see you separate from the body, become auxiliary to the enemies of our government, who have to you been the bitterest enemies, who are now chuckling at the prospect of division among us, and, as I am told, are subscribing for your paper. The best indication of error which my experience has tested, is the approbation of the federalists. Their conclusions necessarily follow the false bias of their principles. I claim, however, no right of guiding the conduct of others; but have indulged myself in these observations from the sincere feelings of my heart. Retired from all political interferences I have been induced into this one by a desire, first of being useful to you personally, and next of maintaining the republican ascendency. Be its effect what it may, I am done with it, and shall look on as an inactive, though not an unfeeling, spectator of what is to ensue. As far as my good will may go, for I can no longer act, I shall adhere to my government executive and legislative, and, as long as they are republican, I shall go with their measures, whether I think them right or wrong; because I know they are honest, and are wiser and better informed than I am. In doing this, however, I shall not give up the friendship of those who differ from me, and who have equal right with myself to shape their own course. In this disposition be assured of my continued esteem and respect.
P.S. Be so good as to consider the extract from my friends letter as confidential, because I have not his permission to make this use of it.
Dear Sir,The interest you were so kind as to take, at my request in the case of Duane, and the communication to you of my first letter to him, entitle you to a commission of the second, which will probably be the last. I have ventured to quote your letter in it, without giving your name, and even softening some of its expressions respecting him. It is possible Duane may be reclaimed as to Mr. Madisonbut as to Mr. Gallatin, I despair of it. That enmity took its rise from a suspicion that Mr. Gallatin interested himself in the election of their governor, against the views of Duane and his friends. I do not believe Mr. Gallatin meddled in it. I was in conversation with him nearly every day during the contest, and I never heard him express any bias in the case. The ostensible grounds of the attack on Mr. Gallatin, are all either false or futile. 1st. They urge his conversations with John Randolph. But who has revealed these conversations ? What evidence have we of them ? merely some oracular sentences from J.R., uttered in the heat of declamation, and never stated with all their circumstances. For instance, that a cabinet member informed him there was no cabinet. But Duane himself has always denied there could be a legal one. Besides, the fact was true at that moment, to-wit : early in the session of Congress. I had been absent from Washington from the middle of July to within three weeks of their meeting. During the separation of the members there could be no consultation, and between our return to Washington and the meeting of Congress, there really had arisen nothing requiring general consultation, nothing which could not be done in the ordinary way by consultation between the President and the head of the department to which the matter belonged, which is the way everything is transacted which is not difficult as well as important. Mr. Gallatin might therefore have said this as innocently as truly, and a malignant perversion of it was perfectly within the character of John Randolph. But the story of the two millions. Mr. Gallatin satisfied us that this affirmation of J.R. was as unauthorized as the fact itself was false. It resolves itself, therefore, into his inexplicit letter to a committee of Congress. As to this, my own surmise was that Mr. Gallatin might have used some hypothethical expression in conversing on that subject, which J.R. made a positive one, and he being a duellist, and Mr. Gallatin with a wife and children depending on him for their daily subsistence, the latter might wish to avoid collision and insult from such a man.
But they say he was hostile to me. This is false. I was indebted to nobody for more cordial aid than to Mr. Gallatin; nor could any man more solicitously interest himself in behalf of another than he did of myself. His conversations with Erskine are objected as meddling out of his department. Why then do they not object to Mr. Smiths with Rose ? The whole nearly of that negotiation, as far as it was transacted verbally, was by Mr. Smith. The business was in this way explained informally; and, on understandings thus obtained, Mr. Madison and myself shaped our formal proceedings. In fact, the harmony among us was so perfect, that whatever instrument appeared most likely to effect the object was always used without jealousy. Mr. Smith happened to catch Mr. Roses favor and confidence at once. We perceived that Rose would open himself more frankly to him than to Mr. Madison, and we, therefore, made him the medium of obtaining an understanding of Mr. Rose.
Mr. Gallatins support of the bank has, I believe, been disapproved by many. He was not in Congress when that was established, and, therefore, had never committed himself publicly on the constitutionality of that institution, nor do I recollect ever to have heard him declare himself on it. I know he derived immense convenience from it, because they gave the effect of ubiquity to his money wherever deposited. Money in New Orleans or Maine was, at his command and by their agency, transformed in an instant into money in London, in Paris, Amsterdam or Canton. He was therefore cordial to the Bank. I often press him to divide the public deposits among all the respectable banks, being indignant myself at the open hostility of that institution to a government on whose treasures they were fattening. But his repugnance to it prevented my persisting. And, if he was in favour of the Bankwhat is the amount of that crime or error in which he had a majority, save one, in each house of Congress as participators ? Yet, on these facts endeavours are made to drive from the administration the ablest man, except the President himself, because he is unwilling to part with so able a counsellor. I believe Duane to be a very honest man, and sincerely republican; but his passions are stronger than his prudence, and his personal as well as general antipathies render him very intolerant. These traits lead him astray, and require his readerseven those who value him for his steady support of the republican cause, to be on their guard against his occasional aberrations. He is eager for war against England,hence his abuse of the two last Congresses. But the people wish for peace. The re-election of the same men proves it; and, indeed, war against Bedlam would be just as rational as against Europe, in its present condition of total demoralization. When peace becomes more losing than war, we may prefer the latter on principles of pecuniary calculation. But for us to attempt a war to reform all Europe, and bring them back to principles of morality and a respect for equal rights of nations, would show us to be only maniacs of another character. We should, indeed, have the merit of the good intentions, as well as the folly, of the hero of La Mancha.But I am getting beyond the object of my letter, and will, therefore, here close it, with assurances of my great esteem and respect.
I have rejoiced to see Ritchie declare himself in favor of the President on the late attack against him, and wish he may do the same as to Mr. Gallatin. I am sure he would if his information was full. I have not an intimacy with him which might justify my writing to him directly, but the enclosed letter to you is put into such a form as might be shown to him, if you think proper to do so. Perhaps the facts stated in it, probably unknown to him, may have some effect. But do in this as you think best. Be so good as to return the letter to Duane, being my only copy, and to be assured of my affectionate esteem and respect.
Dear Sir,Your favor of April 17th came duly to hand. Nobody has regretted more sincerely than myself, the incidents which have happened at Washington. The early intimations which I saw quoted from federal papers were disregarded by- me, because falsehood is their element. The first confirmation was from the National Intelligencer, soon followed by the exultations of other papers whose havoc is on the feelings of the virtuous. Sincerely the friend of all the parties, I ask of none why they have fallen out by the way, and would gladly infuse the oil and wine of the Samaritan into all their wounds. I hope that time, the assuager of all evils, will heal these also; and I pray from them all a continuance of their affection, and to be permitted to bear to all the same unqualified esteem. Of one thing I am certain, that they will not suffer personal dissatisfactions to endanger the republican cause. Their principles, I know, are far above all private considerations. And when we reflect that the eyes of the virtuous all over the earth are turned with anxiety on us, as the only depositories of the sacred fire of liberty, and that our falling into anarchy would decide forever the destinies of mankind, and seal the political heresy that man is incapable of self-government, the only contest between divided friends should be who will dare farthest into the ranks of the common enemy. With respect to Mr. Fosters mission, it cannot issue but as Roses and Jacksons did. It can no longer be doubted that Great Britain means to claim the ocean as her conquest, and to suffer not even a cock-boat, as they express it, to traverse it but on paying them a transit duty to support the very fleet which is to keep the nations under tribute, and to rivet the yoke around their necks. Although their government has never openly avowed this, yet their orders of council, in their original form, were founded on this principle, and I have observed for years past, that however ill success may at times have induced them to amuse by negotiation, they have never on any occasion dropped a word disclaiming this pretension, nor one which they would have to retract when they shall judge the times ripe for openly asserting it. Protraction is therefore the sole object of Fosters mission. They do not wish war with us, but will meet it rather than relinquish their purpose.
With earnest prayers to all my friends to cherish mutual good will, to promote harmony and conciliation, and above all things to let the love of our country soar above all minor passions, I tender you the assurance of my affectionate esteem and respect.
Dear Sir,Your favor on your departure from Richmond, came to hand in due time. Although I may not have been among the first, I am certainly with the sincerest, who congratulate you on your entrance into the national councils. Your value there has never been unduly estimated by those whom personal feelings did not misguide. The late misunderstandings at Washington have been a subject of real concern to me. I know that the dissolutions of personal friendship are among the most painful occurrences in human life. I have sincere esteem for all who have been affected by them, having passed with them eight years of great harmony and affection. These incidents are rendered more distressing in our country than elsewhere, because our printers ravin on the agonies of their victims, as wolves do on the blood of the lamb. But the printers and the public are very different personages. The former may lead the latter a little out of their track, while the deviation is insensible; but the moment they usurp their direction and that of their government, they will be reduced to their true places. The two last Congresses have been the theme of the most licentious reprobation for printers thirsting after war, some against France and some against England. But the people wish for peace with both. They feel no incumbency on them to become the reformers of the other hemisphere, and to inculcate, with fire and sword, a return to moral order. When, indeed, peace shall become more losing than war, they may owe to their interests what these Quixotes are clamoring for on false estimates of honor. The public are unmoved by these clamors, as the re-election of their legislators shows, and they are firm to their executive on the subject of the more recent clamors.
We are suffering here, both in the gathered and the growing crop. The lowness of the river, and great quantity of produce brought to Milton this year, render it almost impossible to get our crops to market. This is the case of mine as well yours, and the Hessian fly appears alarmingly in our growing crops. Everything is in distress for the want of rain.
Present me respectfully to Mrs. Monroe, and accept yourself assurances of my constant and affectionate esteem.
Your favor of November 4, 1809, did not get to my hands till a twelvemonth after its date. Be pleased to accept my thanks for the publication you were pleased to send me. That for Dr. Barton I forwarded to him. His researches into the Indian languages of our continent being continued, I hope it will be in his power to make to you communications useful to the object you are pursuing. This will lessen to me the regret that my retirement into an interior part of the country, as well as my age and little intercourse with the world, will scarcely afford me opportunities of contributing to your information. It is extremely to be desired that your researches should receive every aid and encouragement. I have long considered the filiation of languages as the best proof we can ever obtain of the filiation of nations. With my best wishes for the success of your undertaking, accept the assurances of my high consideration and respect.
I have received your letter of August 19th, and with it the volume of chronology you were so kind as to send me, for which be pleased to accept my thanks. It presents a happy combination of sparse and unconnected facts, which, brought together and fitted to each other, forms a whole of symmetry as well as of system. It is as a gleam of light flashed over the dark abyss of times past. Nothing would be more flattering to me than to give aid to your inquiries as to this continent, and to weave its ancient history into the web of the old world ; and with this view, to accept the invitation to a correspondence with you on the subject. But time tells me I am nearly done with the history of the world; that I am now far advanced in the last chapter of my own, and that its last verse will be read out ere a few letters could pass between St. Petersburg and Monticello. I shall serve you therefore more permanently, by bequeathing to you another correspondent, more able, more industrious, and more likely to continue in life than myself. Dr. Benjamin S. Barton, one of the professors of the College of Philadelphia, is learned in the antiquities of this country, has employed much time and attention on researches into them, is active and punctual, and will, I think, better fulfil your wishes than any other person in the United States. If you will have the goodness to address a letter to him on the subject, with the inquiries you wish to make, he will, I am sure, set a just value on the correspondence proposed, for which I shall take care to prepare him, and in committing to better hands an honor which in earlier life I should have taken a pleasure in endeavoring to merit, I make a sacrifice of my own self-love, which is the strongest proof I can give you of the high respect and consideration of which I now tender you the assurance.
I have lately received a copy of Miss Edgeworths Moral Tales, which seeming better suited to your years than to mine, I inclose you the first volume. The other two shall follow as soon as your mamma has read them. They are to make a part of your library. I have not looked into them, preferring to receive their character from you, after you shall have read them. Your family of silkworms is reduced to a single individual. That is now spinning his broach. To encourage Virginia and Mary to take care of it, I tell them that as soon as they can get wedding gowns from this spinner, they shall be married. I propose the same to you : that, in order to hasten its work, you may hasten home; for we all wish much to see you, and to express in person, rather than by letter, the assurance of our affectionate love.
P.S. The girls desire me to add a postscript, to inform you that Mrs. Higginbotham has just given them new dolls.
Dear Sir,I have seen with very great concern the late address of Mr. Smith to the public. He has been very ill-advised, both personally and publicly. As far as I can judge from what I hear, the impression made is entirely unfavorable to him. Every mans own understanding readily answers all the facts and insinuations, one only excepted, and for that they look for explanations without any doubt that they will be satisfactory. What is Irvings case ? I have answered the inquiries of several on this head, telling them at the same time what was really the truth, that the failure of my memory enabled me to give them rather conjectures than recollections. For in truth, I have but indistinct recollections of the case. I know that what was done was on a joint consultation between us, and I have no fear that what we did will not have been correct and cautious. What I retain of the case, on being reminded of some particulars, will reinstate the whole firmly in my remembrance, and enable me to state them to inquirers with correctness, which is the more important from the part I bore in them. I must therefore ask the favor of you to give me a short outline of the facts, which may correct as well as supply my own recollections. But who is to give an explanation to the public ? not yourself, certainly. The Chief Magistrate cannot enter the arena of the newspapers. At least the occasion should be of a much higher order. I imagine there is some pen at Washington competent to it. Perhaps the best form would be that of some one personating the friend of Irving, some one apparently from the North. Nothing labored is requisite. A short and simple statement of the case will, I am sure, satisfy the public. We are in the midst of a so-so harvest, probably one-third short of the last. We had a very fine rain on Saturday last. Ever affectionately yours.
Dear Sir,I had not supposed a letter would still find you at Washington. Yours by late post tells me otherwise. Those of May 2d and 15th had been received in due time. With respect to my books, lodged at the Presidents house, if you should see Mr. Coles, the Presidents Secretary, and be so good as to mention it, he will be so kind as to have them put on board some vessel bound to Richmond, addressed to the care of Gibson & Jefferson there, whom he knows. Your doubts whether any good can be effected with the Emperor of France are too well grounded. He has understanding enough, but it is confined to particular lines. Of the principles and advantages of commerce he appears to be ignorant, and his domineering temper deafens him moreover to the dictates of interest, of honor and of morality. A nation like ours, recognizing no arrogance of language or conduct, can never enjoy the favor of such a character. The impression, too, which our public has been made to receive from the different styles of correspondence used by two of our foreign agents, has increased the difficulties of steering between the bristling pride of the two parties. It seems to point out the Quaker style of plain reason, void of offence :the suppression of all passion, and chaste language of good sense. Heaven prosper your endeavors for our good, and preserve you in health and happiness.
Dear Sir,Your letter of the 5th, with the volume of Montesquieu accompanying it, came to hand in due time; the latter indeed in lucky time, as, enclosing it by the return of post, I was enabled to get it into Mr. Wardens hands before his departure, for a friend abroad to whom it will be a most acceptable offering. Of the residue of the copies I asked, I would wish to receive one well bound for my own library, the others in boards as that before sent. One of these in boards may come to me by post, for use until the others are received, which I would prefer having sent by water, as vessels depart almost daily from Philadelphia for Richmond. Messrs. Gibson & Jefferson of that place will receive and forward the packet to me. Add to it, if you please, a copy of Franklins works, bound, and send me by post a note of the amount of the whole, and of my newspaper account, which has been suffered to run in arrear by the difficulty of remitting small and fractional sums to a distance, from a canton having only its local money, and little commercial intercourse beyond its own limits.
I learnt with sincere regret that my former letters had given you pain. Nothing could be further from their intention. What I had said and done was from the most friendly dispositions towards yourself, and from a zeal for maintaining the Republican ascendency. Federalism, stripped as it now nearly is, of its landed and laboring support, is monarchism and Anglicism, and whenever our own dissensions shall let these in upon us, the last ray of free government closes on the horizon of the world. I have been lately reading Komarzewskis coup doeil on the history of Poland. Though without any charms of style or composition, it gives a lesson which all our countrymen should study; the example of a country erased from the map of the world by the dissensions of its own citizens. The papers of every day read them the counter lesson of the impossibility of subduing a people acting with an undivided will Spain, under all her disadvantages, physical and mental, is an encouraging example of this. She proves, too, another truth not less valuable, that a people having no king to sell them for a mess of pottage for himself, no shackles to restrain their powers of self-defence, find resources within themselves equal to every trial. This we did during the Revolutionary War, and this we can do again, let who will attack us, if we act heartily with one another. This is my creed. To the principles of union I sacrifice all minor differences of opinion. These, like differences of face, are a law of our nature, and should be viewed with the same tolerance. The clouds which have appeared for some time to be gathering around us, have given me anxiety lest an enemy, always on the watch, always prompt and firm, and acting in well-disciplined phalanx, should find an opening to dissipate hopes, with the loss of which I would wish that of life itself. To myself personally the sufferings would be short. The powers of life have declined with me more in the last six months than in as many preceding years. A rheumatic indisposition, under which your letter found me, has caused this delay in acknowledging its receipt, and in the expressions of regret that I had inadvertently said or done anything which had given you uneasiness. I pray you to be assured that no unkind motive directed me, and that my sentiments of friendship and respect continue the same.
Dear Sir,Your favor of May 24th was very long on its passage to me. It gave us all pleasure to learn from yourself the progress of your peregrination, and your prospect of approaching rest for awhile, among our western brethren-of "rest for the body some, none for the mind." To that, action is said to be all its joy; and we have no more remarkable proof of it than in yourself. The newspapers have kept us informed of the splendid course you have run, and of the flattering impressions made on the public mind, and which must have been so grateful to yourself. The new intellectual feast you are preparing for them in your western retirement, will excite new appetites, and will be hailed like the returning sun, when he re-appears in the East. Your peripatetic enterprise, when first made known to us, alarmed our apprehensions for you, lest the taste of the times, and of our country, should not be up to the revival of this classical experiment. Much to their credit, however, unshackled by the prejudices which chain down the minds of the common mass of Europe, the experiment has proved that, where thought is free in its range, we need never fear to hazard what is good in itself. This sample of the American mind is an additional item for the flattering picture your letter presents of our situation, and our prospects. I firmly believe in them all; and that human nature has never looked forward, under circumstances so auspicious, either for the sum of happiness, or the spread of surface provided to receive it. Very contrary opinions are inculcated in Europe, and in England especially, where I much doubt if you would be tolerated in presenting the views you propose. The English have been a wise, a virtuous and truly estimable people. But commerce and a corrupt government have rotted them to the core. Every generous, nay, every just sentiment, is absorbed in the thirst for gold. I speak of their cities, which we may certainly pronounce to be ripe for despotism, and fitted for no other government. Whether the leaven of the agricultural body is sufficient to regenerate the residuary mass, and maintain it in a sound state under any reformation of government, may well be doubted. Nations, like individuals, wish to enjoy a fair reputation. It is therefore desirable for us that the slanders on our country, disseminated by hired or prejudiced travellers, should be corrected; but politics, like religion, hold up the torches of martyrdom to the reformers of error. Nor is it in the theatre of Ephesus alone that tumults have been excited when the crafts were in danger. You must be cautious, therefore, in telling unacceptable truths beyond the water. You wish me to suggest any subject which occurs to myself as fit for the rostrum. But your own selection has proved you would have been aided by no counsel, and that, you can best judge of the topics which open to your own mind a field for development, and promise to your hearers instruction better adapted to the useful purposes of society, than the weekly disquisitions of their hired instructors. All the efforts of these people are directed to the maintenance of the artificial structure of their craft, viewing but as a subordinate concern the inculcation of morality. If we will be but Christians, according to their schemes of Christianity, they will compound good-naturedly with our immoralities.
Cannot your circuit be so shaped as to lead you through our neighborhood on your return ? It would give us all great pleasure to see you, if it be only en passant, for after such a survey of varied country, we cannot flatter ourselves that ours would be the selected residence. But whether you can visit us or not, I shall always be happy to hear from you, and to know that you succeed in whatever you undertake. With these assurances accept those of great esteem and respect from myself and all the members of my family.
P.S. Since writing the above, an interesting subject occurs. What would you think of a discourse on the benefit of the union, and miseries which would follow a separation of the States, to be exemplified in the eternal and wasting wars of Europe, in the pillage and profligacy to which these lead, and the abject oppression and degradation to which they reduce its inhabitants ? Painted by your vivid pencil, what could make deeper impressions, and what impressions could come more home to our concerns, or kindle a livelier sense of our present blessings ?
Dear Sir,I ask the favor of you to purchase for me as much fresh timothy seed as the inclosed bill will pay for, pack & forward, and that you will have the goodness to direct it to be lodged at Mr. Leitchs store in Charlottesville by the waggoner who brings it. You see how bold your indulgencies make me in intruding on your kindness.
I do not know that the government means to make known what has passed between them & Foster before the meeting of Congress but in the meantime individuals, who are in the way, think they have a right to fish it out and in this way the sum of it has become known. Great Britain has certainly come forward and declared to our government by an official paper that the conduct of France towards her during this war has obliged her to take possession of the ocean, and to determine that no commerce shall be carried on with the nations connected with France, that however she is disposed to relax in this determination so far as to permit the commerce which may be carried on thro the British ports. I have, for 3 or 4 years been confident, that knowing her own resources were not adequate to the maintenance of her present navy, she meant with it to claim the conquest of the ocean, and to permit no nation to navigate it, but on paiment of a tribute for the maintenance of the fleet necessary to secure that dominion. A thousand circumstances brought together left me without a doubt that that policy directed all her conduct, altho not avowed. This is the first time she has thrown off the mask. The answer & conduct of the government have been what they ought to have been, & Congress is called a little earlier, to be ready to act on the receipt of the reply, for which time has been given. God bless you. From yours affectionately.
Dear General and Friend,I am happy to learn that your own health is good, and I hope it will long continue so. The friends we left behind us have fallen out by the way. I sincerely lament it, because I sincerely esteem them all, and because it multiplies schisms where harmony is safety. As far as I have been able to judge, however, it has made no sensible impression against the government. Those who were murmuring before are a little louder now; but the mass of our citizens is firm and unshaken. It furnishes, as an incident, another proof that they are perfectly equal to the purposes of self-government, and that we have nothing to fear for its stability. The spirit, indeed, which manifests itself among the tories of your quarter, although I believe there is a majority there sufficient to keep it down in peaceable times, leaves me not without some disquietude. Should the determination of England, now formally expressed, to take possession of the ocean, and to suffer no commerce on it but through her ports, force a war upon us, I foresee a possibility of a separate treaty between her and your Essex men, on the principles of neutrality and commerce. Pickering here, and his nephew Williams there, can easily negotiate this. Such a lure to the quietists in our ranks with you, might recruit theirs to a majority. Yet, excluded as they would be from intercourse with the rest of the Union and of Europe, I scarcely see the gain they would propose to themselves, even for the moment. The defection would certainly disconcert the other States, but it could not ultimately endanger their safety. They are adequate, in all points, to a defensive war. However, I hope your majority, with the aid it is entitled to, will save us from this trial, to which I think it possible we are advancing. The death of George may come to our relief ; but I fear the dominion of the sea is the insanity of the nation itself also. Perhaps, if some stroke of fortune were to rid us at the same time from the Mammoth of the land as well as the Leviathan of the ocean, the people of England might lose their fears, and recover their sober senses again. Tell my old friend, Governor Gerry, that I gave him glory for the rasping with which he rubbed down his herd of traitors. Let them have justice and protection against personal violence, but no favor. Powers and preeminences conferred on them are daggers put into the hands of assassins, to be plunged into our own bosoms in the moment the thrust can go home to the heart. Moderation can never reclaim them. They deem it timidity, and despise without fearing the tameness from which it flows. Backed by England, they never lose the hope that their day is to come, when the terrorism of their earlier power is to be merged in the more gratifying system of deportation and the guillotine. Being now hors de combat myself, I resign to others these cares. A long attack of rheumatism has greatly enfeebled me, and warns me that they will not very long be within my ken. But you may have to meet the trial, and in the focus of its fury. God send you a safe deliverance, a happy issue out of all afflictions, personal and public, with long life, long health, and friends as sincerely attached as yours affectionately.
Dear Sir,I write to you from a place ninety miles from Monticello, near the new London of this State, which I visit three or four times a year, and stay from a fortnight to a month at a time. I have fixed myself comfortably, keep some books here, bring others occasionally, am in the solitude of a hermit, and quite at leisure to attend to my absent friends. I note this to show that I am not in a situation to examine the dates of our letters, whether I have overgone the annual period of asking how you do ? I know that within that time I have received one or more letters from you, accompanied by a volume of your introductory lectures, for which accept my thanks. I have read them with pleasure and edification, for I acknowledge facts in medicine as far as they go, distrusting only their extension by theory. Having to conduct my grandson through his course of mathematics, I have resumed that study with great avidity. It was ever my favorite one. We have no theories there, no uncertainties remain on the mind; all is demonstration and satisfaction. I have forgotten much, and recover it with more difficulty than when in the vigor of my mind I originally acquired it. It is wonderful to me that old men should not be sensible that their minds keep pace with their bodies in the progress of decay. Our old revolutionary friend Clinton, for example, who was a hero, but never a man of mind, is wonderfully jealous on this head. He tells eternally the stories of his younger days to prove his memory, as if memory and reason were the same faculty. Nothing betrays imbecility so much as the being insensible of it. Had not a conviction of the danger to which an unlimited occupation of the executive chair would expose the republican constitution of our government, made it conscientiously a duty to retire when I did, the fear of becoming a dotard and of being insensible of it, would of itself have resisted all solicitations to remain. I have had a long attack of rheumatism, without fever and without pain while I keep myself still. A total prostration of the muscles of the back, hips and thighs, deprived me of the power of walking, and leaves it still in a very impaired state. A pain when I walk, seems to have fixed itself in the hip, and to threaten permanence. I take moderate rides, without much fatigue; but my journey to this place, in a hard-going gig, gave me great sufferings which I expect will be renewed on my return as soon as I am able. The loss of the power of taking exercise would be a sore affliction to me. It has been the delight of my retirement to be in constant bodily activity, looking after my affairs. It was never damped as the pleasures of reading are, by the question of cui bono? for what object ? I hope your health of body continues firm. Your works show that of your mind. The habits of exercise which your calling has given to both, will tend long to preserve them. The sedentary character of my public occupations sapped a constitution naturally sound and vigorous, and draws it to an earlier close. But it will still last quite as long as I wish it. There is a fulness of time when men should go, and not occupy too long the ground to which others have a right to advance. We must continue while here to exchange occasionally our mutual good wishes. I find friendship to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old mans milk and restorative cordial. God bless you and preserve you through a long and healthy old age.
Dear Sir,I am here after a long absence, having been confined at home a month by rheumatism. I thought myself equal to the journey when I set out, but I have suffered much coming, staying, and shall, returning. If I am not better after a little rest at home, I shall set out for the warm springs. The object of this letter is to inform Mrs. Burwell that a ring, which she left where she washed, the morning of leaving Fludds, is safe and will be delivered to her order or to herself when she passes. I have not seen the President since he came home, nor do I know what has passed with Foster from the fountain head; but through a channel in which I have confidence, I learn he has delivered a formal note in the name of his government, declaring that the circumstances of the war oblige them to take possession of the ocean, and permit no commerce on it but through their ports. Thus their purpose is at length avowed. They cannot from their own resources maintain the navy necessary to retain the dominion of the ocean, and mean that other nations shall be assessed to maintain their own chains. Should the king die, as is probable, although the ministry which would come in stand so committed to repeal the orders of council, I doubt if the nation will permit it. For the usurpation of the sea has become a national disease. This state of things annihilates the culture of tobacco, except of about 15,000 hogsheads on the prime lands. Wheat and flour keep up. Wheat was at 9s. 6d. at Richmond ten days ago. I have sold mine here at the Richmond price, abating 2s., but 8s. a bushel has been offered for machined wheat. Present me respectfully to Mrs. Burwell, and accept assurances of affectionate respect and esteem.
It is long, my dear Sir, since we have exchanged a letter. Our former correspondence had always some little matter of business interspersed; but this being at an end, I shall still be anxious to hear from you sometimes, and to know that you are well and happy. I know indeed that your system is that of contentment under any situation. I have heard that you have retired from the city to a farm, and that you give your whole time to that. Does not the museum suffer? And is the farm as interesting ? Here, as you know, we are all farmers, but not in a pleasing style. We have so little labor in proportion to our land that, although perhaps we make more profit from the same labor, we cannot give to our grounds that style of beauty which satisfies the eye of the amateur. Our rotations are corn, wheat, and clover, or corn, wheat, clover and clover, or wheat, corn, wheat, clover and clover; preceding the clover by a plastering. But some, instead of clover, substitute mere rest, and all are slovenly enough. We are adding the care of Merino sheep. I have often thought that if heaven had given me choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden. No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden. Such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest a continued one through the year. Under a total want of demand except for our family table, I am still devoted to the garden. But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.
Your application to whatever you are engaged in I know to be incessant. But Sundays and rainy days are always days of writing for the farmer. Think of me sometimes when you have your pen in hand, and give me information of your health and occupations ; and be always assured of my great esteem and respect.
Dear Sir,While here, and much confined to the house by my rheumatism, I have amused myself with calculating the hour lines of an horizontal dial for the latitude of this place, which I find to be 37 degrees 22' 26". The calculations are for every five minutes of time, and are always exact to within less than half a second of a degree. As I do not know that anybody here has taken this trouble before, I have supposed a copy would be acceptable to you. It may be a good exercise for Master Cyrus to make you a dial by them. He will need nothing but a protractor, or a line of chords and dividers. A dial of size, say of from twelve inches to two feet square, is the cheapest and most accurate measure of time for general use, and would I suppose be more common if every one possessed the proper horary lines for his own latitude. Williamsburg being very nearly in the parallel of Poplar Forest, the calculations now sent would serve for all the counties in the line between that place and this, for your own place, New London, and Lynchburg in this neighborhood. Slate, as being less affected by the sun, is preferable to wood or metal, and needs but a saw and plane to prepare it, and a knife point to mark the lines and figures. If worth the trouble, you will, of course, use the paper enclosed ; if not, some of your neighbors may wish to do it, and the effort to be of some use to you will strengthen the assurances of my great esteem and respect.
It is long, my good friend, since we have exchanged a letter; and yet I demur to all prescription against it. I cannot relinquish the right of correspondence with those I have learnt to esteem. If the extension of common acquaintance in public life be an inconvenience, that with select worth is more than a counterpoise. Be assured your place is high among those whose remembrance I have brought with me into retirement, and cherish with warmth. I was overjoyed when I heard you were appointed to the supreme bench of national justice, and as much mortified when I heard you had declined it. You are too young to be entitled to withdraw your services from your country. You cannot yet number the quadraginta stipendia of the veteran. Our friends, whom we left behind, have ceased to be friends among themselves. I am sorry for it, on their account and on my own, for I have sincere affection for them all. I hope it will produce no schisms among us, no desertions from our ranks; that no Essex man will find matter of triumph in it. The secret treasons of his heart, and open rebellions on his tongue, will still be punished, while in fieri, by the detestation of his country, and by its vengeance in the overt act. What a pity that history furnishes so many abuses of the punishment by exile, the most rational of all punishments for meditated treason ! Their great king beyond the water would doubtless receive them as kindly as his Asiatic prototype did the fugitive aristocracy of Greece. But let us turn to good-humored things. How do you do ? What are you doing ? Does the farm or the study occupy your time, or each by turns ? Do you read law or divinity ? And which affords the most curious and cunning learning ? Which is most disinterested ? And which was it that crucified its Saviour ? Or were the two professions united among the Jews? In that case, what must their Caiaphases have been ? Answer me these questions, or any others you like better, but let me hear from you and know that you are well and happy. That you may long continue so is the prayer of yours affectionately.
Your letter of August 20th has truly surprised me. In that it is said that, for certain services performed by Mr. James Lyon and Mr. Samuel Morse, formerly editors of the Savannah Republican, I promised them the sum of one thousand dollars. This, Sir, is totally unfounded. I never promised to any printer on earth the sum of one thousand dollars, nor any other sum, for certain services performed, or for any services which that expression would imply. I have had no accounts with printers but for their newspapers, for which I have paid always the ordinary price and no more. I have occasionally joined in moderate contributions to printers, as I have done to other descriptions of persons, distressed or persecuted, not by promise, but the actual payment of what I contributed. When Mr. Morse went to Savannah, he called on me and told me he meant to publish a paper there, for which I subscribed, and paid him the year in advance. I continued to take it from his successors, Everett & McLean, and Everett & Evans, and paid for it at different epochs up to December 31, 1808, when I withdrew my subscription. You say McLean informed you "he had some expectation of getting the money, as he had received a letter from me on the subject." If such a letter exists under my name, it is a forgery. I never wrote but a single letter to him ; that was of the 28th of January, 1810, and was on the subject of the last payment made for his newspaper, and on no other subject; and I have two receipts of his, (the last dated March 9, 1809,) of payments for his paper, both stating to be in full of all demands, and a letter of the 17th of April, 1810, in reply to mine, manifestly showing he had no demand against me of any other nature. The promise is said to have been made to Morse & Lyon. Were Mr. Morse living, I should appeal to him with confidence, as I believe him to have been a very honest man. Mr. Lyon I suppose to be living, and will, I am sure, acquit me of any such transaction as that alleged. The truth, then, being that I never made the promise suggested, nor any one of a like nature to any printer or other person whatever, every principle of justice and of self-respect requires that I should not listen to any such demand.
I enclose you the copy of a letter I have received from a James L. Edwards, of Boston. You will perceive at once its swindling object. It appeals to two dead men, and one, (yourself,) whom he supposes I cannot get at. I have written him an answer which may perhaps prevent his persevering in the attempt, for the whole face of his letter betrays a consciousness of its guilt. But perhaps he may expect that I would sacrifice a sum of money rather than be disturbed with encountering a bold falsehood. In this he is mistaken ; and to prepare to meet him, should he repeat his demand, and considering that he has presumed to implicate your name in this attempt, I take the liberty of requesting a letter from you bearing testimony to the truth of my never having made to you, or within your knowledge or information, any such promise to yourself, your partner Morse, or any other. My confidence in your character leaves me without a doubt of your honest aid in repelling this base and bold attempt to fix on me practices to which no honors or powers in this world would ever have induced me to stoop. I have solicited none, intrigued for none. Those which my country has thought proper to confide to me have been of their own mere motion, unasked by me. Such practices as this letter-writer imputes to me, would have proved me unworthy of their confidence.
It is long since I have known anything of your situation or pursuits. I hope they have been successful, and tender you my best wishes that they may continue so, and for your own health and happiness.
Dear Sir,The enclosed work came to me without a scrip of a pen other than what you see in the title-page"A Monsieur le President de la Societe." From this I conclude it intended for the Philosophical Society, and for them I now enclose it to you. You will find the notes really of value. They embody and ascertain to us all the scraps of new discoveries which we have learned in detached articles from less authentic publications. M. Gudin has generally expressed his measures according to the old as well as the new standard, which is a convenience to me, as I do not make a point of retaining the last in my memory. I confess, indeed, I do not like the new system of French measures, because not the best, and adapted to a standard accessible to themselves exclusively, and to be obtained by other nations only from them. For, on examining the map of the earth, you will find no meridian on it but the one passing through their country, offering the extent of land on both sides of the 45th degree, and terminating at both ends in a portion of the ocean which the conditions of the problem for an universal standard of measures require. Were all nations to agree therefore to adopt this standard, they must go to Paris to ask it ; and they might as well long ago have all agreed to adopt the French foot, the standard of which they could equally have obtained from Paris. Whereas the pendulum is equally fixed by the laws of nature, is in possession of every nation, may be verified everywhere and by every person, and at an expense within every ones means. I am not therefore without a hope that the other nations of the world will still concur, some day, in making the pendulum the basis of a common system of measures, weights and coins, which applied to the present metrical systems of France and of other countries, will render them all intelligible to one another. England and this country may give it a beginning, notwithstanding the war they are entering into. The republic of letters is unaffected by the wars of geographical divisions of the earth. France, by her power and science, now bears down everything. But that power has its measure in time by the life of one man. The day cannot be distant in the history of human revolutions, when the indignation of mankind will burst forth, and an insurrection of the universe against the political tyranny of France will overwhelm all her arrogations. Whatever is most opposite to them will be most popular, and what is reasonable therefore in itself, cannot fail to be adopted the sooner from that motive. But why leave this adoption to the tardy will of governments who are always, in their stock of information, a century or two behind the intelligent part of mankind, and who have interests against touching ancient institutions ? Why should not the college of the literary societies of the world adopt the second pendulum as the unit of measure on the authorities of reason, convenience and common consent ? And why should not our society open the proposition by a circular letter to the other learned institutions of the earth? If men of science, in their publications, would express measures always in multiples and decimals of the pendulum, annexing their value in municipal measures as botanists add the popular to the botanical names of plants, they would soon become familiar to all men of instruction, and prepare the way for legal adoptions. At any rate, it would render the writers of every nation intelligible to the readers of every other, when expressing the measures of things. The French, I believe, have given up their Decada Calendar, but it does not appear that they retire from the centesimal division of the quadrant. On the contrary, M. Borda has calculated according to that division, new trigonometrical tables not yet, I believe, printed. In the excellent tables of Callet, lately published by Didot, in stereotype, he has given a table of logarithmic lines and tangents for the hundred degrees of the quadrant, abridged from Bordas manuscript. But he has given others for the sexagesimal division, which being for every 10" through the whole table, are more convenient than Huttons, Scherwins, or any of their predecessors. It cannot be denied that the centesimal division would facilitate our arithmetic, and that it might have been preferable had it been originally adopted, as a numeration by eights would have been more convenient than by tens. But the advantages would not now compensate the embarrassments of a change.
I extremely regret the not being provided with a time-piece equal to the observations of the approaching eclipse of the sun. Can you tell me what would be the cost in Philadelphia of a clock, the timekeeping part of which should be perfect ? And what the difference of cost between a wooden and gridiron pendulum ? To be of course without a striking apparatus, as it would be wanted for astronomical purposes only. Accept assurances of affectionate esteem and respect.
Your favor of April 2d was not received till the 23d of June last, with the volume accompanying it, for which be pleased to accept my thanks. I have read it with great satisfaction, and received from it information, the more acceptable as coming from a source which could be relied on. The retort on European censors, of their own practices on the liberties of man, the inculcation on the master of the moral duties which he owes to the slave, in return for the benefit of his service, that is to say, of food clothing, care in sickness, and maintenance under age and disability, so as to make him in fact as comfortable and more secure than the laboring man in most parts of the world; and the idea suggested of substituting free whites in all household occupations and manual arts, thus lessening the call for the other kind of labor, while it would increase the public security, give great merit to the work, and will, I have no doubt, produce wholesome impressions. The habitual violation of the equal rights of the colonist by the dominant (for I will not call them the mother) countries of Europe, the invariable sacrifice of their higher interests to the minor advantages of any individual trade or calling at home, are as immoral in principle as the continuance of them is unwise in practice, after the lessons they have received. What in short, is the whole system of Europe towards America but an atrocious and insulting tyranny ? One hemisphere of the earth, separated from the other by wide seas on both sides, having a different system of interests flowing from different climates, different soils, different productions, different modes of existence, and its own local relations and duties, is made subservient to all the petty interests of the other, to their laws, their regulations, their passions and wars, and interdicted from social intercourse, from the interchange of mutual duties and comforts with their neighbors, enjoined on all men by the laws of nature. Happily these abuses of human rights are drawing to a close on both our continents, and are not likely to survive the present mad contest of the lions and tigers of the other. Nor does it seem certain that the insular colonies will not soon have to take care of themselves, and to enter into the general system of independence and free intercourse with their neighboring and natural friends. The acknowledged depreciation of the paper circulation of England, with the known laws of its rapid progression to bankruptcy, will leave that nation shortly without revenue, and without the means of supporting the naval power necessary to maintain dominion over the rights and interests of different nations. The intention too, which they now formally avow, of taking possession of the ocean as their exclusive domain, and of suffering no commerce on it but through their ports, makes it the interest of all mankind to contribute their efforts to bring such usurpations to an end. We have hitherto been able to avoid professed war, and to continue to our industry a more salutary direction. But the determination to take all our vessels bound to any other than her ports, amounting to all the war she can make (for we fear no invasion), it would be folly in us to let that war be all on one side only, and to make no effort towards indemnification and retaliation by reprisal. That a contest thus forced on us by a nation a thousand leagues from us both, should place your country and mine in relations of hostility, who have not a single motive or interest but of mutual friendship and interchange of comforts, shows the monstrous character of the system under which we live. But however, in the event of war, greedy individuals on both sides, availing themselves of its laws, may commit depredations on each other, I trust that our quiet inhabitants, conscious that no cause exists but for neighborly good will, and the furtherance of common interests, will feel only those brotherly affections which nature has ordained to be those of our situation.
A letter of thanks for a good book has thus run away from its subject into fields of speculation into which discretion perhaps should have forbidden me to enter, and for which an apology is due. I trust that the reflections I hazard will be considered as no more than what they really are, those of a private individual, withdrawn from the councils of his country, uncommunicating with them, and responsible alone for any errors of fact or opinion expressed; as the reveries, in short, of an old man, who, looking beyond the present day, looks into times not his own, and as evidences of confidence in the liberal mind of the person to whom they are so freely addressed. Permit me, however, to add to them my best wishes for his personal happiness, and assurances of the highest consideration and respect.
Dear Sir,The enclosed letter came under cover to me without any indication from what quarter it came.
Our latest arrival brings information of the death of the king of England. Its coming from Ireland and not direct from England would make it little worthy of notice, were not the event so probable. On the 26th of July the English papers say he was expected hourly to expire. This vessel sailed from Ireland the 4th of August, and says an express brought notice the day before to the government that he died on the 1st ; but whether on that day or not, we may be certain he is dead, and entertain, therefore, a hope that a change of ministers will produce that revocation of the orders of council for which they stand so committed. In this event we may still remain at peace, and that probably concluded between the other powers. I am so far, in that case, from believing that our reputation will be tarnished by our not having mixed in the mad contests of the rest of the world that, setting aside the ravings of pepper-pot politicians, of whom there are enough in every age and country, I believe it will place us high in the scale of wisdom, to have preserved our country tranquil and prosperous during a contest which prostrated the honor, power, independence, laws and property of every country on the other side of the Atlantic. Which of them have better preserved their honor ? Has Spain, has Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, Prussia, Austria, the other German powers Sweden, Denmark, or even Russia ? And would we accept of the infamy of France or England in exchange for our honest reputation, or of the result of their enormities, despotism to the one, and bankruptcy and prostration to the other, in exchange for the prosperity, the freedom and independence which we have preserved safely through the wreck ? The bottom of my page warns me it is time to present my homage to Mrs. Eppes, and to yourself and Francis my affectionate adieux.
Dear Sir,According to promise I send you our observations of the solar eclipse of September 17th. We had, you know, a perfect observation of the passage of the sun over the meridian, and the eclipse began so soon after as to leave little room for error from the time-piece. Her rate of going, however, was ascertained by ten days subsequent observation and comparison with the sun, and the times, as I now give them to you, are corrected by these. I have no confidence in the times of the first and ultimate contacts, because you know we were not early enough on the watch, deceived by our time-piece which was too slow. The impression on the sun was too sensible when we first observed it, to be considered as the moment of commencement, and the largeness of our conjectural correction (18") shows that that part of the observation should be considered as nothing. The last contact was well enough observed, but it is on the forming and breaking of the annulus that I rely with entire confidence. I am certain there was not an error of an instant of time in either. I would be governed, therefore, solely by them, and not suffer their result to be affected by the others. I have not yet entered on the calculation of our longitude from them. They will enable you to do it as a college exercise. Affectionately yours.
* * * * * * * *
Dear Sir,Your favor of September 23d came to hand in due time, and I thank you for the nautical almanac it covered for the year 1813. I learn with pleasure that the Philosophical Society has concluded to take into consideration the subject of a fixed standard of measures, weights and coins, and you ask my ideas on it ; insulated as my situation is, I am sure I can offer nothing but what will occur to the committee engaged on it, with the advantage on their part of correction by an interchange of sentiments and observations among themselves. I will, however, hazard some general ideas because you desire it, and if a single one be useful, the labor will not be lost.
The subject to be referred to as a standard, whether it be matter or motion, should be fixed by nature, invariable and accessible to all nations, independently of others, and with a convenience not disproportioned to its utility. What subject in nature fulfils best these conditions ? What system shall we propose on this, embracing measures, weights and coins ? and in what form shall we present it to the world ? These are the questions before the committee.
Some other subjects have, at different times, been proposed as standards, but two only have divided the opinions of men : first, a direct admeasurement of a line on the Earths surface, or second, a measure derived from its motion on its axis. To measure directly such a portion of the Earth as would furnish an element of measure, which might be found again with certainty in all future times, would be too far beyond the competence of our means to be taken into consideration. I am free, at the same time, to say that if these were within our power in the most ample degree, this element would not meet my preference. The admeasurement would of course be of a portion of some great circle of the earth. If of the equator, the countries over which that passes, their character and remoteness, render the undertaking arduous, and we may say impracticable for most nations. If of some meridian, the varying measures of its degrees from the equator to the pole, require a mean to be sought, of which some aliquot part may furnish what is desired. For this purpose the 45th degree has been recurred to, and such a length of line on both sides of it terminating at each end in the ocean, as may furnish a satisfactory law for a deduction of the unmeasured part of the quadrant. The portion resorted to by the French philosophers, (and there is no other on the globe under circumstances equally satisfactory,) is the meridian passing through their country and a portion of Spain, from Dunkirk to Barcelona. The objections to such an admeasurement as an element of measure, are the labor, the time, the number of highly-qualified agents, and the great expense required. All this, too, is to be repeated whenever any accident shall have destroyed the standard derived from it, or impaired its dimensions. This portion of that particular meridian is accessible of right to no one nation on earth. France, indeed, availing herself of a moment of peculiar relation between Spain and herself, has executed such an admeasurement. But how would it be at this moment, as to either France or Spain ? and how is it at all times as to other nations, in point either of right or of practice ? Must these go through the same operation, or take their measures from the standard prepared by France ? Neither case bears that character of independence which the problem requires, and which neither the equality nor convenience of nations can dispense with. How would it now be, were England the deposit of a standard for the world ? At war with all the world, the standard would be inaccessible to all other nations. Against this, too, are the inaccuracies of admeasurements over hills and valleys, mountains and waters, inaccuracies often unobserved by the agent himself, and always unknown to the world. The various results of the different measures heretofore attempted, sufficiently prove the inadequacy of human means to make such an admeasurement with the exactness requisite.
Let us now see under what circumstances the pendulum offers itself as an element of measure. The motion of the earth on its axis from noon to noon of a mean solar day, has been divided from time immemorial, and by very general consent, into 86,400 portions of time called seconds. The length of a pendulum vibrating in one of those portions, is determined by the laws of nature, is invariable under the same parallel, and accessible independently to all men. Like a degree of the meridian, indeed, it varies in its length from the equator to the pole, and like it, too, requires to be reduced to a mean. In seeking a mean in the first case, the 45th degree occurs with unrivalled preferences. It is the mid-way of the celestial arc from the equator to the pole. It is a mean between the two extreme degrees of the terrestial arc, or between any two equi-distant from it, and it is also a mean value of all its degrees. In like manner, when seeking a mean for the pendulum, the same 45th degree offers itself on the same grounds, its increments being governed by the same laws which determine those of the different degrees of the meridian.
In a pendulum loaded with a bob, some difficulty occurs in finding the centre of oscillation ; and consequently the distance between that and the point of suspension. To lessen this, it has been proposed to substitute for the pendulum, a cylindrical rod of small diameter, in which the displacement of the centre of oscillation would be lessened. It has also been proposed to prolong the suspending wire of the pendulum below the bob, until their centres of oscillation shall coincide. But these propositions not appearing to have received general approbation, we recur to the pendulum, suspended and charged as has been usual. And the rather as the laws which determine the centre of oscillation leave no room for error in finding it, other than that minimum in practice to which all operations are subject in their execution. The other sources of inaccuracy in the length of the pendulum need not be mentioned, because easily guarded against. But the great and decisive superiority of the pendulum, as a standard of measure, is in its accessibility to all men, at all times and in all places. To obtain the second pendulum for 45° it is not necessary to go actually to that latitude. Having ascertained its length in our own parallel, both theory and observation give us a law for ascertaining the difference between that and the pendulum of any other. To make a new measure therefore, or verify an old one, nothing is necessary in any place but a well-regulated time-piece, or a good meridian, and such a knowledge of the subject as is common in all civilized nations.
Those indeed who have preferred the other element do justice to the certainty, as well as superior facilities of the pendulum, by proposing to recur to one of the length of their standard, and to ascertain its number of vibrations in a day. These being once known, if any accident impair their standard it is to be recovered by means of a pendulum which shall make the requisite number of vibrations in a day. And among the several commissions established by the Academy of Sciences for the execution of the several branches of their work on measures and weights, that respecting the pendulum was assigned to Messrs. Borda, Coulomb and Cassini, the result of whose labors, however, I have not learned.
Let our unit of measure then be a pendulum of such length as in the latitude of 45°, in the level of the ocean, and in a given temperature, shall perform its vibrations, in small and equal arcs, in one second of mean time.
What ratio shall we adopt for the parts and multiples of this unit ? The decimal without a doubt. Our arithmetic being founded in a decimal numeration, the same numeration in a system of measures, weights and coins, tallies at once with that. On this question, I believe, there has been no difference of opinion.
In measures of length, then, the pendulum is our unit. It is a little more than our yard, and less than the ell. Its tenth or dime, will not be quite .4 inches. Its hundredth, or cent, not quite .4 of an inch; its thousandth, or mill, not quite .04 of an inch, and so on. The traveller will count his road by a longer measure, 1,000 units, or a kiliad, will not be quite two-thirds of our present mile, and more nearly a thousand paces than that.
For measures of surf ace, the square unit, equal to about ten square feet, or one-ninth more than a square yard, will be generally convenient. But for those of lands a larger measure will be wanted. A kiliad would be not quite a rood, or quarter of an acre; a myriad not quite 2½ acres.
For measures of capacity, wet and dry,
The cubic Unit = .1 would be about .35 cubic feet, .28 bushels dry, or 7/8 of a ton liquid.
Dime = .1 would be about 3.5 cubic feet, 2.8 bushels, or about 7/8 of a barrel liquid.
Cent = .01 about 50 cubic inches, or 7/8 of a quart.
Mill = .001 = .5 of a cubic inch or 2/3 of a gill.
To incorporate into the same system our weights and coins, we must recur to some natural substance, to be found everywhere, and of a composition sufficiently uniform. Water has been considered as the most eligible substance, and rain-water more nearly uniform than any other kind found in nature. That circumstance renders it preferable to distilled water, and its variations in weight may be called insensible.
The cubic unit of this = .1 would weigh about 2,165 pounds or a ton between the long and short.
The Dime = .1 a little more than 2 kentals.
Cent = .01 a little more than 20 lb.
Mill = .001 a little more than 2 lb.
Decimmil =. 0001 about 3½ oz. avoirdupoise.
Centimmil = .00001 a little more than 6 dwt.
Millionth = .000001 about 15 grains.
Decimmillionth = .0000001 about 1½ grains.
Centimmillionth = .00000001 about .14 of a grain.
Billionth = .000000001 about .014 of a grain.
With respect to our coins, the pure silver in a dollar being fixed by law at 347¼ grains, and all debts and contracts being bottomed on that value, we can only state the pure silver in the dollar, which would be very nearly 23 millionths.
I have used loose and round numbers (the exact unit being yet undetermined) merely to give a general idea of the measures and weights proposed, when compared with those we now use. And in the names of the subdivisions I have followed the metrology of the ordinance of Congress of 1786, which for their series below unit adopted the Roman numerals. For that above unit the Grecian is convenient, and has been adopted in the new French system.
We come now to our last question, in what form shall we offer this metrical system to the world ? In some one which shall, be altogether unassuming; which shall not have the appearance of taking the lead among our sister institutions in making a general proposition. So jealous is the spirit of equality in the republic of letters, that the smallest excitement of that would mar our views, however salutary for all. We are in habits of correspondence with some of these institutions, and identity of character and of object, authorize our entering into correspondence with all. Let us then mature our system as far as can be done at present, by ascertaining the length of the second pendulum of 45° by forming two tables, one of which shall give the equivalent of every different denomination of measures, weights and coins in these States, in the unit of that pendulum, its decimals and multiples ; and the other stating the equivalent of all the decimal parts and multiples of that pendulum, in the several denominations of measures, weights and coins of our existing system. This done, we might communicate to one or more of these institutions in every civilized country a copy of those tables, stating as our motive, the difficulty we had experienced, and often the impossibility of ascertaining the value of the measures, weights and coins of other countries, expressed in any standard which we possess; that desirous of being relieved from this, and of obtaining information which could be relied on for the purposes of science, as well as of business, we had concluded to ask it from the learned societies of other nations, who are especially qualified to give it with the requisite accuracy; that in making this request we had thought it our duty first to do ourselves, and to offer to others, what we meant to ask from them, by stating the value of our own measures, weights and coins, in some unit of measure already possessed, or easily obtainable, by all nations ; that the pendulum vibrating seconds of mean time, presents itself as such an unit; its length being determined by the laws of nature, and easily ascertainable at all times and places ; that we have thought that of 45° would be the most unexceptionable, as being a mean of all other parallels, and open to actual trial in both hemispheres. In this, therefore, as an unit, and in its parts and multiples in the decimal ratio, we have expressed, in the tables communicated, the value of all the measures, weights and coins used in the United States, and we ask in return from their body a table of the weights, measures and coins in use within their country, expressed in the parts and multiples of the same unit. Having requested the same favor from the learned societies of other nations, our object is, with their assistance, to place within the reach of our fellow citizens at large a perfect knowledge of the measures, weights and coins of the countries with which they have commercial or friendly intercourse; and should the societies of other countries interchange their respective tables, the learned will be in possession of an uniform language in measures, weights and coins, which may with time become useful to other descriptions of their citizens, and even to their governments. This, however, will rest with their pleasure, not presuming, in the present proposition, to extend our views beyond the limits of our own nation. I offer this sketch merely as the outline of the kind of communication which I should hope would excite no jealousy or repugnance.
Peculiar circumstances, however, would require letters of a more special character to the Institute of France, and the Royal Society of England. The magnificent work which France has executed in the admeasurement of so large a portion of the meridian, has a claim to great respect in our reference to it. We should only ask a communication of their metrical system, expressed in equivalent values of the second pendulum of 45° as ascertained by Messrs. Borda, Coulomb and Cassini, adding, perhaps, the request of an actual rod of the length of that pendulum.
With England, our explanations will be much more delicate. They are the older country, the mother country, more advanced in the arts and sciences, possessing more wealth and leisure for their improvement, and animated by a pride more than laudable.* It is their measures, too, which we undertake to ascertain and communicate to themselves. The subject should therefore be opened to them with infinite tenderness and respect, and in some way which might give them due place in its agency. The parallel of 45° being within our latitude and not within theirs, the actual experiments under that would be of course assignable to us. But as a corrective, I would propose that they should ascertain the length of the pendulum vibrating seconds in the city of London, or at the observatory of Greenwich, while we should do the same in an equidistant parallel to the south of 45°, suppose in 38° 29'. We might ask of them, too, as they are in possession of the standards of Guildhall, of which we can have but an unauthentic account, to make the actual application of those standards to the pendulum when ascertained. The operation we should undertake under the 45th parallel, (about Passamaquoddy,) would give us a happy occasion, too, of engaging our sister society of Boston in our views, by referring to them the execution of that part of the work. For that of 38° 29' we should be at a loss. It crosses the tide waters of the Potomac, about Dumfries, and I do not know what our resources there would be unless we borrow them from Washington, where there are competent persons.
Although I have not mentioned Philadelphia in these operations, I by no means propose to relinquish the benefit of observations to be made there. Her science and perfection in the arts would be a valuable corrective to the less perfect state of them in the other places of observation. Indeed, it is to be wished that Philadelphia could be made the point of observation south of 45°, and that the Royal Society would undertake the counterpoint on the north, which would be somewhere between the Lizard and Falmouth. The actual pendulums from both of our points of observation, and not merely the measures of them, should be delivered to the Philosophical Society, to be measured under their eye and direction.
As this is really a work of common and equal interest to England and the United States, perhaps it would be still more respectful to make our proposition to her Royal Society in the outset, and to agree with them on a partition of the work. In this case, any commencement of actual experiments on our part should be provisional only, and preparatory to the ultimate results. We might, in the meantime, provisionally also, form a table adapted to the length of the pendulum of 45°, according to the most approved estimates, including those of the French commissioners. This would serve to introduce the subject to the foreign societies, in the way before proposed, reserving to ourselves the charge of communicating to them a more perfect one, when that shall have been completed.
We may even go a step further, and make a general table of the measures, weights and coins of all nations, taking their value hypothetically for the present, from the tables in the commercial dictionary of the encyclopedia methodique, which are very extensive, and have the appearance of being made with great labor and exactness. To these I expect we must in the end recur, as a supplement for the measures which we may fail to obtain from other countries directly. Their reference is to the foot or inch of Paris, as a standard, which we may convert into parts of the second pendulum of 45°.
I have thus, my dear Sir, committed to writing my general ideas on this subject, the more freely as they are intended merely as suggestions for consideration. It is not probable they offer anything which would not have occurred to the committee itself. My apology on offering them must be found in your request. My confidence in the committee, of which I take for granted you are one, is too entire to have intruded a single idea but on that ground.
Be assured of my affectionate and high esteem and respect.
* We are all occupied in industrious pursuits. They abound with persons living on the industry of their fathers or on the earnings of their fellow citizens, given away by their rulers in sinecures and pensions. Some of these, desirous of laudable distinction, devote their time and means to the pursuits of science, and become profitable members of society by an industry of a higher order.
Dear Sir,I write this letter separate, because you may perhaps think something in the other of the same date, worth communicating to the committee.
I accept, willingly, Mr. Voigts offer to make me a time-piece, and with the kind of pendulum he proposes. I wish it to be as good as hands can make it, in everything useful, but no unnecessary labor to be spent on mere ornament. A plain but neat mahogany case will be preferred.
I have a curiosity to try the length of the pendulum vibrating seconds here, and would wish Mr. Voigt to prepare one which could be substituted for that of the clock occasionally, without requiring anything more than unhanging the one and hanging the other in its place. The bob should be spherical, of lead, and its radius, I presume, about one inch. As I should not have the convenience of a room of uniform temperature, the suspending rod should be such as not to be affected by heat or cold, nor yet so heavy as to affect too sensibly the centre of oscillation. Would not a rod of wood not larger than a large wire, answer this double view ? I remember Mr. Rittenhouse told me he had made experiments on some occasion, on the expansibility of wood lengthwise by heat, which satisfied him it was as good as the gridiron for a suspender of the bob. By the experiments on the strength of wood and iron in supporting weights appended to them, iron has been found but about six times as strong as wood, while its specific gravity is eight times as great. Consequently, a rod of it of equal strength, will weigh but three-fourths of one of iron, and disturb the centre of oscillation less in proportion. A rod of wood of white oak, e.g. not larger than a seine twine, would probably support a spherical bob of lead of one inch radius. It might be worked down to that size, I suppose, by the cabinet-makers, who are in the practice of preparing smaller threads of wood for inlaying. The difficulty would be in making it fast to the bob at one end, and scapement at the other, so as to regulate the length with ease and accuracy. This Mr. Voigts ingenuity can supply, and in all things I would submit the whole matter to your direction to him, and be thankful to you to give it. Yours affectionately.
Dear Sir,We have safely received the cask of timothy seed, as also the very excellent parcel of butter which you have been so kind as to send us; for which be pleased to accept my thanks, or properly request you to tender them with my respects to Mrs. Stuart.
You have, day since, seen the most excellent, national & dignified message of the president, & the documents accompanying it. In these you see the British government have openly avowed that they will enforce their orders of council, that is, will keep exclusive possession of the ocean, until France will allow her manufactures to go in the ships of other nations into the continent of Europe & France herself, altho she does not permit, even in time of peace, the manufactures of any nation to be brought to England in other ships but of the nation manufacturing them. In the meantime she is taking all our vessels, which is all the war she can make on her side and indeed the style of Fosters correspondence is altogether a style of defiance. Always affectionately yours.
Your favor of October 14 was duly received, and with it Mr. Bowditchs observations on the comet, for which I pray you to accept my thanks, and be so good as to present them to Mr. Bowditch also. I am much pleased to find that we have so able a person engaged in observing the path of this great phenomenon; and hope that from his observations and those of others of our philosophical citizens, on its orbit, we shall have ascertained, on this side of the Atlantic, whether it be one of those which have heretofore visited us. On the other side of the water they have great advantages in their well-established observatories, the magnificent instruments provided for them, and the leisure and information of their scientific men. The acquirements of Mr. Bowditch in solitude and unaided by these advantages, do him great honor.
With respect to the eclipse of September 17. I know of no observations made in this State but my own, although I had no doubt that others had observed it. I used myself an equatorial telescope, and was aided by a friend who happened to be with me, and observed through an achromatic telescope of Dollards. Two others attended the time-pieces. I had a perfect observation of the passage of the sun over the meridian, and the eclipse commencing but a few minutes after, left little room for error in our time. This little was corrected by the known rate of going of the clock. But we as good as lost the first appulse by a want of sufficiently early attention to be at our places, and composed. I have no confidence, therefore, by several seconds, in the time noted. The last oscillation of the two luminaries was better observed. Yet even there was a certain term of uncertainty as to the precise moment at which the indenture on the limb of the sun entirely vanished. It is therefore the forming of the annulus, and its breaking, which alone possess my entire and complete confidence. I am certain there was not an error of an instant of time in the observation of either of them. Their result therefore should not be suffered to be affected by either of the others, The four observations were as follows :
The 1st appulse, oh. 13' 54" Annulus formed. lh. 53' 0" } central time of annulus } central time of the two Annulus broken lh. 59' 25" } lh, 56' 12½" } contacts, lh. 51' 28" Last oscillation, 3h. 29' 2" Latitude of Monticello, 38degrees 8'
I have thus given you, Sir, my observations, with a candid statement of their imperfections. If they can be of any use to Mr. Bowditch, it will be more than was in view when they were made; and should I hear of any other observations made in this State, I shall not fail to procure and send him a copy of them. Be so good as to present me affectionately to your much-esteemed father, and to accept the tender of my respect.
I duly received your letter of October 24 on the publication of an Ephemeris. I have long thought it desirable that something of that kind should be published in the United States, holding a middle station between the nautical and the common popular almanacs. It would certainly be acceptable to a numerous and respectable description of our fellow citizens, who, without undertaking the higher astronomical operations, for which the former is calculated, yet occasionally wish for information beyond the scope of the common almanacs. What you propose to insert in your Ephemeris is very well so far. But I think you might give it more of the character desired by the addition of some other articles, which would not enlarge it more than a leaf or two. For instance, the equation of time is essential to the regulation of our clocks and watches, and would only add a narrow column to your second page. The suns declination is often desirable, and would add but another narrow column to the same page. This last would be the more useful as an element for obtaining the rising and setting of the sun, in every part of the United States; for your Ephemeris will, I suppose, give it only for a particular parallel, as of New York, which would in a great measure restrain its circulation to that parallel. But the suns declination would enable every one to calculate sunrise for himself, with scarcely more trouble than taking it from an almanac. If you would add at the end of the work a formula for that calculation, as, for example, that for Delalande, §1026, a little altered. Thus, to the logarithmic tangent of the latitude (a constant number) add the logarithmic tangent of the suns declination ; taking 10 from the Index, the remainder is the line of an arch which, turned into time and added to six hours; gives sunrise for the winter half and sunset for the summer half of the year, to which may be added three lines only from the table of refractions, §1028, or, to save even this trouble, and give the calculation ready made for every parallel, print a table of semi-diurnal arches, ranging the latitudes from 35° to 45° in a line at top, and the degrees of declination in a vertical line on the left, and stating, in the line of the declination, the semi-diurnal arch for each degree of latitude, so that every one knowing the latitude of his place and the declination of the day, would find his sunrise or his sunset where their horizontal and vertical lines meet. This table is to be found in many astronomical books, as, for instance, in Wakeleys Mariners Compass Rectified, and more accurately in the Connoissance des tems, for 1788. It would not occupy more than two pages at the end of the work, and would render it an almanac for every part of the United States.
To give novelty, and increase the appetite for continuing to buy your Ephemeris annually, you might every year select some one or two useful tables which many would wish to possess and preserve. These are to be found in the requisite tables, the Connoissance des tems for different years, and many in Pikes arithmetic.
I have given these hints because you requested my opinion. They may extend the plan of your Ephemeris beyond your view, which will be sufficient reason for not regarding them. In any event I shall willingly become a subscriber to it, if you should have any place of deposit for them in Virginia where the price can be paid. Accept the tender of my respects.
Dear Sir,While at Monticello I am so much engrossed by business or society, that I can only write on matters of strong urgency. Here I have leisure, as I have everywhere the disposition to think of my friends. I recur, therefore, to the subject of your kind letters relating to Mr. Adams and myself, which a late occurrence has again presented to me. I communicated to you the correspondence which had parted Mrs. Adams and myself, in proof that I could not give friendship in exchange for such sentiments as she had recently taken up towards myself, and avowed and maintained in her letters to me. Nothing but a total renunciation of these could admit a reconciliation, and that could be cordial only in proportion as the return to ancient opinions was believed sincere. In these jaundiced sentiments of hers I had associated Mr. Adams, knowing the weight which her opinions had with him, and notwithstanding she declared in her letters that they were not communicated to him. A late incident has satisfied me that I wronged him as well as her, in not yielding entire confidence to this assurance on her part. Two of the Mr. , my neighbors and friends, took a tour to the northward during the last summer. In Boston they fell into company with Mr. Adams, and by his invitation passed a day with him at Braintree. He spoke out to them everything which came uppermost, and as it occurred to his mind, without any reserve; and seemed most disposed to dwell on those things which happened during his own administration. He spoke of his masters, as he called his Heads of departments, as acting above his control, and often against his opinions. Among many other topics, he adverted to the unprincipled licentiousness of the press against myself, adding, I always loved Jefferson, and still love him.
This is enough for me. I only needed this knowledge to revive towards him all the affections of the most cordial moments of our lives. Changing a single word only in Dr. Franklins character of him, I knew him to be always an honest man, often a great one, but sometimes incorrect and precipitate in his judgments; and it is known to those who have ever heard me speak of Mr. Adams, that I have ever done him justice myself, and defended him when assailed by others, with the single exception as to political opinions. But with a man possessing so many other estimable qualities, why should we be dissocialized by mere differences of opinions in politics, in religion, in philosophy, or anything else. His opinions are as honestly formed as my own. Our different views of the same subject are the result of a difference in our organization and experience.
I never withdrew from the society of any man on this account, although many have done it from me; much less should I do it from one with whom I had gone through, with hand and heart, so many trying scenes. I wish, therefore, but for an apposite occasion to express to Mr. Adams my unchanged affections for him. There is an awkwardness which hangs over the resuming a correspondence so long discontinued, unless something could arise which should call for a letter. Time and chance may perhaps generate such an occasion, of which I shall not be wanting in promptitude to avail myself. From this fusion of mutual affections, Mrs. Adams is of course separated. It will only be necessary that I never name her. In your letters to Mr. Adams, you can, perhaps, suggest my continued cordiality towards him, and knowing this, should an occasion of writing first present itself to him, he will perhaps avail himself of it, as I certainly will should it first occur to me. No ground for jealousy now existing, he will certainly give fair play to the natural warmth of his heart. Perhaps I may open the way in some letter to my old friend Gerry, who I know is in habits of the greatest intimacy with him.
I have thus, my friend, laid open my heart to you, because you were so kind as to take an interest in healing again revolutionary affections, which have ceased in expression only, but not in their existence. God ever bless you, and preserve you in life and health.